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Three Reptiles and a Warmie

"Alright bring it in through there. It goes in the last room at the end of the hall."

Frieza gestured to the movers, who shifted around awkwardly with a large desk. A few seconds later a third mover appeared carrying a large half mirror.

"A vanity is the correct term," came Cold's voice from the living room sofa, "That woman spends too much time in front of a mirror as it is, why does she need something the only purpose of which is to put on--"

"That woman," Frieza replied, "I would like to remind you, is mine."

"Yours, yes. Do you tell her that often? These Earth women--"

"Some of us prefer it that way." Marron's giggly voice sounded off as she walked into the apartment carrying several bags.

Cold just rolled his eyes. He still couldn't see why Frieza had started dating this little twit, much less allowed her to move in here. And...in the same room. He'd had his mistresses of course, but that was completely different. That was a formal arrangement. This was just...

"Frieza, where can I put my bookcase?"

"There's an empty place against the left wall in the study," he replied, looking to the next mover, who was carrying in a small bookcase.

"Alright, then. Follow me." Marron smiled at the next mover who was tugging a small bookcase.

The second she was out of earshot, Cold scoffed.

"What?" Frieza asked, turning back.

"What kind of books does she read? Hairstyles Through the Ages?"

"If you're going to make this difficult, father--"

"No, no, far be it from me to stop you from bringing someone so utterly devoid of intelligence move in. And I suppose you're going to be sharing the same room?" Cold crossed his arms.

"You surely can't presume to lecture me on adultery?"

"I am merely trying to remind you that accidents happen."

"I am not having this discussion with you. What I do in the privacy of my bedroom is none of yours or anyone else's business."

"Oh, please tell me you aren't fighting!" came Marron's voice from the hallway, "I hate it when you two fight!"

"Yes, we know," Frieza replied loudly.

Cold just laughed, and shook his head. "Two years ago you wouldn't have stood for a woman like that."

"Two years ago I wouldn't have had you living with me all the time either."

It was a point of contention for both men. Cold's injuries had been fully healed, but the pain still seemed to nag at him for some unfathomable reason, and anyone's disbelief that it was real had lead to the oversized royal speaking very little to anyone in anything that didn't involve biting remarks.

"You didn't have to have me here, you know."

"Are we going to go through this again? Now? I am not having her be a part of this ridiculous feud you seem intent on starting with me. Now--"

"Ah..." A mover, transfixed by the argument at hand, had stopped with a large box in his hands.

This stress would call for the really good wine later...the kind that put him to sleep in a hurry.

"What? If it's books it goes in the study, if not, it goes in the master bedroom."

"Well, it's not that," the man replied, "It's just, there's someone outside asking if you live here."

Frieza groaned. "What did he look like?" I swear to the gods, if it's one of the VPs too stupid to use the phone is wanting me to sign something or come in and work on my day off, that whole board room is going to--

At least he knew it wasn't the monkey. Goku never actually asked to come in, he usually just IT'd into the living room or kitchen or wherever Frieza happened to be at the time. It was miraculous he hadn't interrupted any dates with Marron.

Yet, he added the thought with a roll of the eyes.

"Kinda like your father there, actually."

That seemed to pique Cold's interest. "What do you mean, like me?"

"Well, I mean, he's white, and the thing on his head's blue, and his skin's this purple color..."

It wasn't possible.

That was the first thing Frieza thought. He'd been...preoccupied...while that fight had gone on, and despite feeling no guilt whatsoever for the loss, he had been assured that Goku had killed his brother. "Punched him into the sun" or something like that.

"You didn't let him in, did you?"

"Of course not." The mover went on back to the study, and Frieza headed out the door against a background of protests from his father. Someone was playing a joke, that, or the monkey had wished back his brother without telling him. Although why he'd do that...

The doorman looked up when he appeared in the lobby. "Do you know this gentleman, sir?""

Frieza looked toward the corner nearest the door, and seated there, in medical scrubs, with an overlarge bag from a local takeout joint...

...was Cooler.

It was definitely him. There was no mistaking it.

So much for a quiet evening with Marron...

Chapter Text

Leftovers

"You've got a lot of explaining to do."

It certainly did look like Cooler, but there was something altogether very different about him. He didn't sit the way he used to. He didn't have that same air of authority that he used to hold, either...

"I know." Cooler shrugged and sat back, "And I'd have come to see you sooner, but I haven't exactly had a lot of free days in the last two years."

"That can't possibly be the only reason."

"...and I wasn't sure how to approach you. I knew you'd changed, but the question was...how much."

Frieza didn't have to say it, but the next sentence, unspoken, hung awkwardly in the air: I was afraid of you.

"Well in any case," he said quickly, "It's good to see you again. I imagine father will be happy about it."

"Father's here too?"

"You haven't seen him?"

"Well, no. I've avoided this area...I may look like you, but I haven't got the--it doesn't matter." Cooler shook his head.

As they stepped into the elevator, Frieza gave him a suspicious glance. His brother was normally calm...collected...but perhaps losing to the monkey had done something to him. Best perhaps to change the subject. "How are you still here?"

"You'd never believe me if I told you."

"I've lived on this dirtball for two years and haven't blown it up or killed either of the monkies, and I've moved an Earth woman into my home. I think I'd be willing to believe anything short of the appearance of a deity right now."

"That's...oddly specific. But...fine. I kind of...had a little trip around the sun."

"The monkey did say he punched you into it...or something to that effect, anyway."

"Worked in Star Trek...but...anyway...I ended up more than twenty years into the past."

"Why didn't you go out and kill the monkey if that was the case?"

"I ask myself that all the time. The truth is, I really don't know. Maybe I just liked the look of the place. It'd been a while since I felt the sun. Maybe I just wanted to try something else for a change where I didn't have to compete with you."

"Fair enough." Frieza's opinion of Cooler at that point was that he had gone a bit odd towards the end, when he came to Earth. No further details were forthcoming, and he decided not to press for any either.

"So what did you bring with you? Takeout?"

"Right." Cheap and quick. But mostly cheap, not that he wanted Frieza to think about it.

"And this is our floor." Frieza stepped out into the hallway once the elevator reached the right floor, "Marron is getting her things moved in, so don't make a habit of standing in front of the door, or anything like that."

"...right. Hard to believe you're having a woman over like this, though. You used to abide so strictly by father's rules."

"They got me what I wanted before. Now, not so much."

"I'd say I'm glad you're the scapegoat now but I'm not sure he'll have that view for long."

"What did you do?" Frieza couldn't help but laugh as he opened the door.

Cold was there waiting just behind the door.

"Father?"

"It's...I thought the monkey killed you. He said that he--"

"He was wrong," Cooler replied. He then raised the bag of takeout, "I can explain it over dinner."


Cold was loathe to eat anything even vaguely cheap, but he seemed to stomach it in favor of hearing Cooler out.

"Around the sun, hmm? You know you could've saved us all a lot of trouble by getting rid of the monkey early on."

"And cause a paradox, more likely than not? No thank you."

Frieza was watching the conversation in an odd sort of bemused silence. Cooler was speaking with an informal tone, he wasn't sitting up straight...

"What have you been doing since then, if not killing the monkey?"

"The short version is...college, medical school, and surgical interning."

"You? Cut people open for a living?"

"It pays well," Cooler shrugged, "I always wanted to be a doctor."

"You told me you wanted to rule," Cold replied stiffly.

"I lied."

"What else have you lied about, I wonder?"

Cooler just went quiet for a second, but continued after some consideration, "Probably a lot, by omission."

"Oh?"

"Would you like to know exactly how I've lived for the past few years?"

Frieza couldn't help but notice a grin forming on his brother's face.

"Exhibit A," Cooler took out an older model smartphone, and tapped at it for a minute before bringing up a picture of an apartment building, "That's where I live."

"It can't be anywhere good with rent that low."

Oh. So this was the plan.

"Exhibit B...I'm eating this cheap food, happily. Not a bit of refinement."

Cold was obviously uncomfortable, but it didn't seem as if Cooler was anywhere close to done.

"Exhibit C...this cheap food took up my entire paycheck's frivolous spending budget."

Budget.

Budget.

"You could've said something," Cold huffed, "No son of mine should be living in a shoebox and having to--watch what he spends."

"I am, and I'm happy doing it."

"Here's a question," Frieza cut in, "Do you fly to work? The...humans...well, they tend not to react well to people flying in from anywhere."

"Took me a few times to learn that," Cooler couldn't help but laugh, "But I did learn."

"So what do you do? Do you drive?" Cold's tone was hopeful.

"Oh, no, I take the bus." He stopped immediately after saying it--apparently realizing his error just a few seconds too late.


Cold had left the table and gone back to his room and refused to speak to any of them.

Frieza and Cooler had had a good laugh about it, and after exchanging phone numbers, the latter left, wishing Frieza luck in dealing with, "father's little episode."

Chapter Text

Myself With You

*In The Past*

She was friendly, that was for certain, and the view was decent, for Earth women. Frieza could safely say that if he were a normal human, he'd have some trouble resisting her obvious charms.

Of course, he'd also been told she was a relentless flirt, most likely to aid her family's makeup company's goals of brokering the deal with Capsule Corp. His research on them hadn't turned up very much of any real information aside from the fact that they'd made Marron a "negotiator" because of her looks and tendency to use them to get what she wanted. Despite her official position as the spokesperson, it seemed they pushed these duties on her time and again. She was good at it, true, but...

It reminded Frieza too much of how his own father had pushed him into first one thing and then another. At least this woman was pleasant company, if a bit daft.

After a series of conference center meetings regarding the latest round of negotiations, he was looking forward to a sleep in his hotel room. He was leaving the room when he noted that Marron, who was at the end of the table, still seemed to be paying rapt attention to the tablet in her hands. Hrm. Perhaps she was discussing how things had gone with her family.

Instead, he found a passage from (he guessed) some book or the other.

The Light failed; but the Darkness that followed was more than loss of light. In that hour was made a Darkness that seemed not lack but a thing with being of its own: for it was indeed made by malice out of Light, and it had power to pierce the eye, and to enter heart and mind, and strangle the very will.

"What is that? Poetry?" he couldn't help himself, and leaned closer to look over the rest of the page. He hadn't given much thought to Earth's literature, but this certainly sounded interesting. And she had underlined that passage, too. Darkness that entered the heart and mind, and strangled the will...his trip in the void of space, bereft of his lower half, bleeding out, dying slowly...he could safely say that he felt the weight of the passage keenly.

"Oh...no. No, it's nothing," she replied, giving a nervous laugh and exiting the program, "Someone bought me a book, but it's terribly boring."

"Reading can be that way."

"Sometimes not, if you're lucky...I have to go."

She was out the door in a hurry, leaving him terribly confused. She was ruffled, but--why? It was only a book...


*Present Day*

"Marron, is that it?"

"Yes, Frieza, that's it. I've got my books and everything in order. You've been such a dear this whole time!" She smiled, leaned over, and pecked him on the cheek. "You've been so great about all this." She'd been busy while the others had eaten, and now that everything was in its place, was getting ready to eat something herself.

"You're the one putting up with my father's invectives about it. I'm surprised it didn't drive you batty."

"I've dealt with worse," she replied with a shrug. "I know he's a King, but...you'd think he'd know how to be nicer!"

"You would think so, but you'd be sadly wrong."

"I guess he thinks that he can do as he pleases," she shrugged, "He's still angry about being here, and then my being here too."

"He can be angry all he likes. It's not going to get him anywhere."

"Well. I guess we should head out and deal with him then, huh?"

"Right, just let me get Mr. Hopsley set up."

"Of course." When her back was turned, Frieza couldn't help but roll his eyes. Marron's pet frog had been something of a bother during his visits to her home, and he couldn't imagine that the beast would be any less annoying now. "Did he take the trip well?"

"You don't have to call him that, you know. He responds to 'hey, you,' 'frog,' 'you bastard,"--"

"You bastard?"

"I was drunk, alright?" Marron shook her head as she lifted the frog from his little terrarium, "And at least he does like you. Say hello to Frieza, Mr. Hopsley!"

"He doesn't need to do that, he already knows me!"

But as instructed, the frog said hello. Or rather, he touched his head awkwardly with one of his front legs.

"If I didn't know better I'd say he was trying to salute."

"A frog, saluting? I think you're more tired than you're trying to let on right now."

"Oh, because I say something vaguely silly, I must be tired?" Marron asked, "I suppose you won't mind if I go right to sleep then?"

"I never said that. Don't put words in my mouth, woman!"

"Woman, huh?"

"That is what you are, unless I've made a grievous miscalculation."

"If you're trying to make me mad, it won't work." Marron's expression shifted rather suddenly from irritation to amiability. "Silly. You've made me too happy to make me mad just like that."

There was croaking, and wiggling.

"Oh, he's going weird again." She lifted the frog, and pressed his face into a smile. "You always act funny around my Freezy, Mr. Hopsley. Are you jealous?"

Croak. Blink. General wiggling of legs.

"I guess that's a yes. Come on, back into your little box until you calm down."

"You really should get his tank set up."

"I have to buy him another one," Marron said, "The movers broke it."

"Then they'll get you another one."

"Frieza, it's not worth complaining about. Really, it's not, they're cheap and we just got everything--"

"They broke something of yours, my dear, and they should pay for it. They were paid to carefully move your things and they failed in that endeavor."

"It's just an aquarium tank. Promise me you won't make a fuss over it, alright?"

Ugh, she was using that tone again...

"Fine. I promise I won't make a fuss."

Chapter Text

Aunt Louise & Roz

"Either the new partnership was a bad idea, or there's a rat somewhere." Frieza glanced over the papers with a shake of the head. "It's one of the more profitable deals you and your father have made recently."

"Where do you see a discrepancy?"

"The expense accounts."

"Those are always high...though now you point that out, they do look...more engorged than usual." Dr. Briefs took Bulma's copy of the current page, "Probably a couple of those new junior executives not used to having that kind of money."

"No, they're all from old money families."

"Well...these all look like standard expenses...excessive, certainly, but not totally out of left-field, call-the-lawyers bad. Maybe it's entitlement working its magic."

"I suggest a limit on the benefits for the newcomers," Frieza replied, "They're outspending their usefulness."

"A good point," Dr. Briefs nodded, "A very good point indeed. But what do we do about this in the meantime?"

"Have them really earn that next paycheck." Frieza smirked, glancing briefly at his watch. "Is that all?"

"Well, no, but we can handle it if there's something you need to get to. The girlfriend giving you trouble for being so busy?"

"Oh, no, nothing like that. My grandmother died, and--"

"And since you have money they want you to take care of the proceedings, eh?"

"How'd you guess?"


"Father, I really would have appreciated it if you had simply sent it back with her people."

"You think I didn't try?"

"You could've tried harder."

"They dropped the urn and the datapad off and left." Cold sighed and leaned forward, glaring down at the urn.

"They burned her?"

"Yes, apparently your aunt's husband arranged it for his wife as a birthday present."

"Clever man," Frieza laughed, "But again--why is it here?"

"They didn't want to do it themselves, and they were worried about being haunted."

"Bunch of superstitious..." Frieza glanced over the datapad.

"You really don't want to do that," Cold said.

Click.

When the video started, Frieza cringed.

He hadn't seen his grandmother in years. But there she was--pink skin, white bioplates, and orange gems, just as he remembered them. And a look of contempt that he'd seen too many times to count.

"Hello..." her nose seemed to wrinkle, "...family. If you're receiving this, then I have died. And before you start celebrating, no, I didn't leave you anything. Your job is to handle the disposal of my remains. The funeral, and the plot are already paid for, so all you worthless bastards have to do is--what? It's my video, you filthy parasite, I'll do what I want on it! Your job is to get the legal details hammered out and to record this--not tell me what I can say!"

"I remember her lawyer," Cold mused, "Poor bastard had to have been a masochist, to stick with her as long as he did."

"I've hired someone to bring you this. You can hide that ship of yours from me, you can retire to that little world on the outer reaches of civilized space, but you can't just fly under the radar when it comes to me."

Frieza was about to turn off the datapad when a new video started. It was a male relative that he vaguely remembered meeting once or twice.

"Your mother's brother-in-law," Cold said, when Frieza looked to him for an explanation, "Nice fellow."

"Look," said the blue-and-green Arcosian, "I can't slip in a message that's too long here, so I've got to be quick. I had Brumal burned; it wasn't that hard. Seems not even the priest at the ice chapel was averse to pretending as if her remains were not delivered. It was a mistake that there was no evidence of. Bribery all around--but you know all about that already. Here's the thing, though--we don't want her ashes. As rotten a woman as she was in life, we don't want her here after death, either. The old bitch is bound to come back and haunt us..."

"So you're making it our problem now. Fantastic." Frieza said.

"...you can scatter the ashes wherever the hell you want--just don't send them back to us."

And with that, the message was over. They both looked back at the urn with a creeping sense of dread.

"We could ship her someplace else." Frieza suggested, "Make her someone else's problem like he did."

"No, no," Cold replied, "We'll deal with her now. End this whole show once and for all."

"End who?"

Maron peeked into the room from the kitchen.

"My grandmother," Frieza replied without looking up from the urn.

"Aww, I'm sorry to hear that."

"Don't be," Cold said, "She was a miserable woman."

"Was she really that bad?" Maron took the other seat beside Frieza.

"I'm a king, and I still wasn't good enough for her daughter. And that's just to start with."

"Well you loved her, didn't you? That should've been enough."

"You would think," Frieza added, "But no. Once Cooler appeared you'd think she'd be fine. Wrong again. My mother told me that she said, 'Well at least your brat has your color! But he looks like your husband, how could you let that happen?' As if she had any control over it!"

"And then when you were born," Cold said, "Brumal took one look at you and said 'Pale as a ghost! Can your husband produce any offspring that aren't defective? Try again, see if we can't get something normal this time!'"

"Only got worse when I got older."

"Maybe you should let Cooler know about this?" Maron piped in. "It sounds like he'd probably want to be here...with whatever you're going to plan for her remains."

"I already did," Cold replied, "He said he was getting grub and then he'd be over. I have no idea what he means by 'grub'..."

"It's just a word for food," Maron said.

"Oh."

"So...tell me about her. Why do you hate her so much?" she was addressing Frieza, of course, but Cold was the first to answer.

"Nothing was ever good enough. Nothing. End of story."

"Did you forget 'are you married yet?' every year when I was getting close to adulthood?" Frieza asked.

"That's--"

"And I you DID mention having an interest in some girl she'd go over the genealogy to tell me that it was a poor decision."

"I think I get it--"

"Brumal used to tell your mother that she was getting fat, and she should stop having children or it'd ruin her body forever, and then later it turned into she needed to watch what she ate because it already had. Vain little--"

"Why didn't you just not talk to her?"

"She was family, that wasn't an option."

Maron went quiet for a moment. "Well, it's what I did. And I'm saner for it."

She got up and headed back into the kitchen, and Cold glanced to Frieza. "I fail to see how still working for them means she's not speaking to them."

"She's working on it. Now drop it. Has Cooler messaged you back again?"

"He's waiting for his food to be ready, and for some reason asked for a picture of the urn...I sent it and he said he'd bring a priest."

Frieza couldn't help but laugh when Cold handed his phone over and he looked over the messages.

Send a picture of the urn?

I'm bringing help. There's a church nearby, maybe the priest is free.

"Earth seems to have worked well on him."

"He never used to be this...mirthful...before," Cold grumbled. "He needs to take things as seriously as he used to, then maybe he'd get somewhere in life."

"You mean like you?" Maron's voice sounded off as she exited the kitchen, "Look here, you. Your son is making something of himself and if you had any sense as a parent you'd realize that you should be proud of him. But that didn't occur to you, did it? You're too busy crowing about how much better you are than someone when you're ACTING JUST LIKE HER!"

"Woman--"

"No. Don't bother. I'm going anyway." And with that, Maron stormed out the front door.

"I hope you're proud of yourself," Frieza glared at his father.

"She is the one who went into hysterics. Why? Even that Son monkey's woman isn't that bad."

"Yes, well...family is a sensitive topic with her. Now--enough arguing, we need to settle this. What are we going to do with the ashes?"

"Wait for a smoggy day and dump them out the window."

"No, no, I have a better idea..." Frieza got out his cellphone and scrolled through the contacts.

Cold couldn't help but glance over the names.

Angel, CEO, Idiot Monkey's Wife, Monkey Prince...Monkey Prince's Wife...

Frieza scrolled a bit further.

"Monkey Slut?"

"She couldn't keep her legs closed if her life depended on it," he replied evenly, "But she can be useful for getting rid of things."

"Like your self-worth?"

"Maybe you would, I wouldn't," Frieza said, hitting the call button.

The look of pure indignation on his father's face was priceless.

"Kale here."

"I need you to get rid of something," Frieza said.

"Who'd you kill this time?"

"It's a relative--"

"I can't get rid of a body that big!"

"Why do you automatically assume it's my father?"

"Given how similar you two are, it's a safe assumption. Look, I have a date--"

"Big surprise there."

"--so I need to make this quick. Tell me the who and what I have to work with."

"It's not a body, it's my grandmother's ashes. I don't suppose you still have that cat? Does it need litter?"

"That's wicked," she replied, "Alright, but it'll cost you."

"The previous pay scale is still in effect."

"I have a decent job, I don't need money," she replied, "You could try getting me a date. Maybe someone who's not shy..."

Frieza glanced at his father, who, having overheard the entire conversation, promptly got up and left.

"But not too flashy."

"Funny, I remember your taste in men being different."

"Taste changes," she replied absently, "Can you do it or not?"

"I think I can arrange something...I'll be in touch. Just get the urn, I'll leave it at the front desk."

Chapter Text

Know Thyself

"Alright, so here's what we're going to do," Bulma said, "Everyone listen up."

Maron and Kale looked up.

"We're going to take my car--"

"--and I will be driving, and not give you the keys no matter how flirtatious you get." Cooler added.

"Right!"

Kale laughed, "Why aren't we on our way already?"

"She just wanted to go over the ground rules," Maron said, "Hush and let her finish."

"What're we going to do?" Bulma asked, and looked expectantly at the other two.

"We're going to leave our keys here." Maron and Kale both answered that time.

"Good. Anything you need to add, Cooler?"

"As long as I get paid and my brother doesn't find out, no."

"Aren't you a doctor?" Kale asked, "Don't you have money?"

"Correction...I'm an intern."

"Oh. Well can't your father--"

"I'm not taking his money."

"Good for you, then. Now can we go?"


Neither Bulma nor Maron wanted to be hit on during the evening (and Cooler couldn't watch everyone at the same time), so they chose one of Bulma's less-used haunts to head for. It was a well-known bar with a primarily gay clientele on a street so incredibly crowded they had to park six blocks away.

"Glad I didn't wear my heels," Maron grumbled as they walked in. "That walk was murder!"

"You should learn to fly," Kale said, "Then you can wear 'em all you want."

"And give up Frieza carrying me anywhere when we fly?"

"Who says you have to tell him you can fly?" Bulma added.

"He'd find out."

"I wouldn't tell him," Cooler said.

"Well...maybe at some point. Just not tonight." Maron waved it off and ordered a margarita, then looked to Bulma. "Not still hurting or anything, are you?"

"Oh no, no," Bulma replied, "Doing good, actually. I just...really needed to get out someplace other than Capsule Corp. It was lab, Trunks, lab, Trunks..."

"No Vegeta?"

"No, we're taking a break...it's been a bit odd since Trunks was born."

"Odd how? That ass didn't leave you, did he?"

"We're just...taking a break, is all."

"Not a permanent one, I hope. Your egos fit well together." Cooler couldn't help but laugh. "The mighty prince and the brilliant heiress..."

The evening went on.

There were several more rounds of sugary drinks, and steady decline in conversation accompanied by an uptick of general giggliness.

"Go dance with someone," Bulma was saying to Maron, "You could do it."

"Even if it's another woman, he'd still be pissed."

"So?"

"So I want to keep him!" Maron protested.

"Nah, probably he'd just blast anyone you did dance with," Kale replied, "Jealous type and all that. Doesn't like people taking what belongs to him."

"That's one thing I like about him."

"That he's jealous?"

"That he's jealous over me. I've never felt so valued before. And you'd better believe I show my appreciation."

"Ew." Bulma wrinkled her nose, "Maron, we don't need to know that!"

"Well excuse me for liking it when--"

"Shut up, just shut up!" Kale covered her ears with her hands, only to lower them a minute later when Maron started laughing.

"You two are too easy to mess with. Why's it such a big deal?"

"Because it's Frieza. I don't want to think about what he does with covered-up parts of his body."

"Never thought about it, huh?" Bulma asked.

"Oh, hell no," Kale downed the rest of her drink, "I'd rather shave my head and pull my tail out by the roots."

"That's...oddly specific."

"It was the first thing I...aw, damn it all." Kale'd moved to take a sip from her drink and found it empty. "Hang on guys, I'll go get us all a few more. Waiter looks like he's busy."

She got up and almost immediately stumbled, though thankfully Cooler caught her before she could hit the ground.

He stood her up, and then said, "If she's that unsteady, I can't say you other two'll be much better. Give me your orders, I'll get the drinks, but after that I'm cutting you all off."

"You're so nice," Bulma gushed. "And concerned."

"It's what you're paying me for." Cooler shrugged as the three gave him their orders, and headed up to the bar once he'd written the list out on his phone.

On his way up, a bald man passed by and sat on one of the barstools. It took a moment for Cooler to realize that he recognized him.

"Tien, wasn't it?"

The head turned, revealing--just as he'd suspected. Three eyes were looking back at him.

"I didn't think you went out like this very often."

"Dry sake," Tien said to the bartender before, "It's just that this is the only place Launch won't look for me. She won't set foot in here."

"Good idea there. But why's she so insistent?"

"I don't know. She thinks I'm a perfect man...it just never ends. She finds me wherever I go."

"And how long has this been going on?"

"Years."

"How unfortunate. You should try getting close with someone, see if that doesn't get her off your back." Cooler shrugged as the bartender brought back Tien's sake, and then took the list of drinks the girls had given him and started on them.

"That wouldn't be fair to the person I'd be seeing."

"All's fair in love and war," Cooler laughed, "As long as they know why they're there, why not?"

"I'll think about it."

"That's all you can--"

"Hey! Cooler!" Bulma shouted from the table, waving her arm as she did. "Stop flirting with that big hunk of muscle and get our drinks!"

"You're driving, aren't you?" Tien said, "Good luck. Bulma can get rambunctious."

"I'll need it." Cooler gave him a nod, grabbed the tray the bartender had set on the bar with the drinks, and headed back.

Ah, the things one did for grocery money.

"Alright, ladies, here they are," he said, once he came back, "Two Jaegerbombs and a lemon drop."

"I feel so special," Maron said.

"You should try one too," Bulma added, "Sugar's good to start with, not so much for ending with."

"I don't want to accentuate the headache I'll have in the morning."

"Eh, that's just because you have a man who'll make it worse," Kale said, "Frieza'd make you regret getting drunk in the first place."

"No, he wouldn't. He's too considerate for that."

"We are talking about the same Frieza, right?" Bulma asked.

"Short, white, purple, beautiful scarlet eyes, yes, same Frieza."

"I still don't know what you did to him," Kale said, "Do you have mind-control powers or something?"

"No. No, I don't."

Cooler kept his attention mostly on his phone for the next half-hour, making a swiping motion now and again as the conversation drifted into comparisons between Vegeta and Frieza, then for some reason into how Frieza wasn't sleeping well and jokes about Maron keeping him up. He stopped listening at that point, and glanced back up at the bar.

Tien was gone.

"...I tell you Bulma, if it doesn't work out, try out someone else. You never know. Best way to get over someone is to get under someone else."

"Then who the hell are you getting over, Kale?"

"A girl can't enjoy company?"

"Aaaaaaand I think it's time we all get going," Cooler said, "Ladies, come on. Let's not cause a scene."

"But it's not that late!" Maron grumbled, "And I'm not even that drunk."

"And I'd like you to stay that way."


Knock, knock

Silence.

Maron appeared through the door after the jingle of fumbling keys was heard, and groaned slightly as she made her way across the living room to the back hallway. She remembered now, why she hadn't gone out with either of them in a while. More than the unsteady feet and achy head was the thought that she wasn't particularly comfortable with Kale or Bulma. She wanted to be like them, gregarious, outgoing, but if she was honest...that wasn't her.

It was nice to have outings that didn't involve work, though.

"You should stop trying to think when you're drunk," she mumbled to herself.

Frieza was fast asleep, and only stirred a little when she finally joined him, more in response to her body heat than anything else.

She smiled.

At least he didn't expect her to be a social butterfly.

Chapter Text

Blueblood

"Good morning."

Maron groaned a little bit, and pulled the pillow over her head. It had been a few weeks since the outing with Kale, Bulma, and Cooler, and the previous night she'd gone out again--this time, only with Kale. She was now sorely regretting this last jaunt at being a party girl with every pulse of her hangover headache.

"It's almost noon, my dear."

"We don't have work today, Frieza. Go away."

The pillow was pulled away, and he leaned over her. "We have that Year-End office party this evening, and you know it."

"I don't want to know."

"You can't just forget something you know," Frieza replied, "Come on, now, get up."

"Fine," Maron sat up yawning. "Why do we have to go again? Can't we just stay home...enjoy a quiet evening?"

"Something something the deal was wrapped up and is making both sides plenty of money, so they want a party for it and the Year-End one tied in, so they decided, why not. We don't have to come, but it'd look bad if we don't."

"Half the people in attendance will be drunk! It'll be--"

"Oh, don't worry. I'm not going to let any drunk imbeciles grope you, or anything like that. Does that help?"

"A little." She looked away.

Because it wasn't the drunk guys she was afraid of.


It was Maron who requested that Frieza drive them to the Year-End Party. He found it odd, seeing as how she usually preferred to do the driving when they went anywhere together, but today, well--she seemed overwhelmingly nervous. He'd never seen her quite this way before, and told himself to keep an eye on her during the evening.

She checked her makeup several times before they entered the office and was in the process of doing it again once they were in the door. It baffled him completely...were there rumors that had gotten to her? Had she been harassed by someone for not being "attractive enough"?

"Maron, stop. You look fine."

"I know! I know, it's just that...I'm nervous."

"It's a party, Maron. What is there to be nervous about? You've gone to a hundred or more of these things."

"I just..." she squeezed his hand, and said no more.

They chatted with several of the other executives (who good-naturedly ribbed Frieza about doing very well out of this deal), and Maron began to improve. She stayed at his side and (somehow, annoying, though he would say nothing of it) she seemed to play more the part of "date" than anything else.

"You're very lucky," one had said, "Good job snagging this one!"

"Oh, I know, I know," Maron replied with a light grin and an airy tone he hated. "Such a sweetheart, he is."

"Of course. And all the money doesn't hurt, either."

"Oh, who cares about money?" She'd laughed, but Frieza, now more interested in watching her, noted that the amusement that brought a smile didn't reach her eyes.

Hrm.

"Everyone should care about money, darling."

The grip on Frieza's hand tightened considerably when the snobbish tone drifted by, but Maron let go of him when they turned to face--her father.

He was a somewhat tall man with bluish, greying hair that carried himself with a pride that Frieza found quite familiar...and somewhat discomforting. And beside him--

"Mother." Maron's tone was suddenly subdued.

The woman she called mother was willowy, with a thinness that seemed unnatural; her hair and makeup were perfectly applied, and the haughtiness of her stare was almost on par with what Frieza often saw from his father. She was blonde, but a look at her pale blue roots hinted that it was out of a bottle.

"Darling, it's lovely to see you again. We've been a little worried, you know, since you've not been talking much."

"I've just been busy...the move, and all." Again, a subdued tone.

"Yes, of course," her father replied, "You rather surprised us with that."

"That I would so thoroughly charm her?" Frieza added. He was feeling distinctly left out of the conversation, and it didn't look as if Maron's father was making any sort of eye contact with him.

"That she would move so quickly."

"It happens," Frieza replied, "You aren't looking for it, and it happens."

There was a bit of hub-bub about the drinks table, and someone's voice rang out suddenly, "Hey, they're bringing out the Yaedan 700!"

"That's a really good year, I didn't know they even had any of that wine outside a cellar anymore. People who get that stuff--"

"I know, I know. Hurry up and get over there, there's only three bottles of it!" Someone else said excitedly.

"That's my cue," Frieza said quickly, "Maron, I'll go get us a glass of it before all these lushes have it all."

"Really, you don't have to--"

"It's my pleasure." He smiled, and was off before she could speak again.

The line was up to eight people by the time Frieza got there, and one of the bottles was already gone.

He poured two glasses and headed back, not paying the least amount of of attention to the nasty looks the rest of the line was giving him. Should've been in line sooner if they wanted more.

Besides, he wouldn't let Maron pass this up. He spotted her seated at a table with her mother and father, and headed towards them--stopping briefly behind several other older executives who were debating the effectiveness of some advertising campaign or the other.

"...dear, all we're saying is that you should've picked someone better."

Was that...

"He's a prince, he's from a good family." Maron's voice was shaky.

"Yes, that may be true, but he's not human. Having fun is one thing, but dally too long with someone like him, and people might start to talk."

Someone like him?

"It's not dallying, mother! I love him!"

"You just think that because he's good at charm. He's only pretending to like you," her father stated, "Do you honestly think that a woman of this planet, even if she comes from a good family, would interest him? He wants royal blood."

"I am not going to leave him," Maron replied, "I don't care if whoever-he-was--"

"He is the head of one of our prospective acquisitions," her mother said, "And he would be a much better fit for you than some--lizard. It's depraved, is what it is."

Frieza was about to step forward; his aura was crackling ever so slightly, even. But Maron spoke first.

"Mother, father...I don't really need to be introduced to him. I'm not planning to leave Frieza, at any point if it can be helped."

"We're only looking out for you. Imagine what the children would look like!"

"You can stop planning my life for me!" she finally snapped, and stood, absolutely fuming, "I don't need or WANT your help! What are you going to do, write me out of the will like you did my brother when he didn't let you direct every move he made?"

"Your brother wanted to be a writer, for heaven's sake! What kind of a living is that going to make anyone?"

"It was his decision to make."

"Not when it involves the family's reputation. We take it seriously, as you should. If you aren't going to, then--"

"I don't need your money anyway."

"Go ahead. Stay with the lizard, see where that gets you in the world," her mother said, "Our circles certainly won't approve, and we can't have you fouling it up by bringing him around."

"Then I simply won't show up," Maron replied. She was trembling, but he could see a resolve in her expression, "Now are you done?"

"Not quite," her father said, "Because if you are going to behave like this at an official function..."

"You are the ones badgering me!"

"And you are being hysterical. Hush and listen."

"No. You listen--"

"You're fired."

"What?"

"You heard me, young lady. When you're ready to see sense and live up to the family name, you can be the face of the company again. There is no room for divided loyalties."

"Fine," Maron replied, "Fine. Just remember that, about appearances, when you have to tell your snobby friends that now both of your children aren't speaking to you."

Frieza watched in amazement as she walked off in a huff, and followed along behind her. "Maron!"

"What?" Her voice was cracking.

"I heard it all. I just wanted to say--"

"You don't have to say anything. It's nothing wrong with you."

"Oh, I know that." He followed her up the stairs and past several rooms where more schmoozing was, he assumed, going on. They were tiresome to deal with anyway.

"It's just--they never liked you. They wanted me to cozy up to you, get this deal done, and then..."

"And then be whisked off to the next target?"

"No. They wanted me to settle down after this. I'd still have my job, but...well, you know."

"Maron--" he handed her one of the glasses, and she downed it in less than a minute.

"It's all they've ever done. Do this, do that. Break up with the second man to treat you with any dignity because he's not what we imagined."

"The first being...?"

"That...that short friend of Bulma's. Krillin."

Maybe not a good time to mention he'd once killed the man...

"And then you came along, and...and I couldn't give you up like I did him. I couldn't just let you go." She took a deep breath, but couldn't stop herself. "What am I going to do?"

"I'll tell you what you're going to do," Frieza said with a smirk, "You're going to run the company."

"They've fired me. And they'd never let a woman run it anyway."

"My dear, they won't have a choice in the matter."

"What are you planning, Freezy?"

"Nothing too elaborate, my dear," he said, draining his own glass. "I think it's time I took a close look at the stock price of your family's company..."

Chapter Text

Dawn Raid

Maron was given her last check the next morning, and was carefully supervised in collecting her things from her little office. She spoke very little to any of the others in the offices, and went home in complete silence.

"Well, someone looks--"

"I don't have time for you right now," Maron said, glaring up at Cold as she passed.

Well. That was different. Cold glanced after her as she passed into the study. He'd heard them talking about Maron having been fired, but they'd not said very much else about it. She was pissed about it, but that was natural.

She came out of the study only to get something, and ignored him entirely at lunch.


A week went by.

Maron was beginning to ease her mood down. Today, she was writing some figures down and was about to lay back for a nap. This plan, it would work, but...

"I just don't get it, Mr. Hopsley. I did good work. You'd think they'd appreciate that." Maron sighed, sitting back on the study's sofa with the frog in her lap. "But they'll get theirs, you see."

The frog croaked.

"No...no, don't worry. It's legal."

He nodded.

"You always know what to say, don't you?"

Croak.

She smiled and gave him a quick hug. "I just wish that it could've gone a little better."

"Monkey, you really DON'T HAVE TO do this--oh."

Frieza, in a suit with more than a few tears in it, had just appeared behind the sofa, right next to--

"Goku?" Maron questioned. "Oh, no, look at your SUIT!"

"Blame HIM! 'Train with me, Frieza!' 'It's boring without a friend, Frieza!' 'You're a challenge!'" Frieza turned and glared at Goku. "I'm holding you responsible for this."

"Aw, c'mon! I wasn't trying to mess it up! And you could've changed out of it!"

"Pardon me for thinking you wouldn't give me TIME TO DO IT!"

"But Frieza...."

"Right, right, I expect too much from you. You are just a dumb monkey, after all."

"I'm not dumb," Goku said, "C'mon, Frieza."

"Fine. Fine. But next time, CALL ME FIRST, alright? Don't just teleport in and ask to spar with me. People might start talking and I don't need the hassle right now."

"What would they say?" Goku scratched his head, "I mean, really? 'You two sure do fight a lot'?"

"You'd be surprised," Maron said, "How're you doing, Goku?"

"Oh, fine. Just bringing Frieza home for you!"

"And leaving my car at work," Frieza replied.

"I can get that too--"

"No. No. You don't have to do that!"

"Oh, okay."

Mr. Hopsley had clambered up onto the back of the sofa and was waving his front legs around.

"Huh, neat frog you've got there, Maron. Looks...different."

"He's different in general. Very chatty."

Croak.

"I think he's confused."

Goku looked down at the frog, squinting slightly.

Croak.

"Oh look, he's standing up!" Maron said, "He does these little tricks a lot, watch him. Bet he'll--"

Goku's squint only got more suspicious when the frog tried standing on one leg and proceed to stick another in the air.

"You're not going to win that staring contest," Maron said. "Just wait, see what he does next. It's amazing, I've never seen a frog do it before."

Another leg crossed Mr. Hopsley's chest...

"Guys," Goku said suddenly, standing straight up, "Can I borrow him for a bit?"

"Gohan a fan of weird frogs too?" Maron asked.

"Yeah, he loves animals," Goku said quickly. He extended his hand to the frog, which climbed onto it and then up his arm. "I'll be back soon!"

And with that, he was gone.

"What a strange man," Maron said. "But I'm glad he's gone. I need to talk to you."

"About?"

"My parents. And their company."

"Oh, yes, I had a few things to--"

"I know what we're going to do now. Do you know what a dawn raid is?"

"That's what I was going to suggest!"

"It is? Then good, good, we both agree," Maron said, "We can't be seen as the ones doing this, though. It'd be a breach of...something, I forget what. We don't want to harm Capsule Corp in any way through this, so it's really better if no lawyers have to get involved."

"Right."

"Is there someone we can trust that's not connected to either company? Someone you trust to get this kind of thing done?"

"We can use Kale," Frieza said, "She might be a bit too friendly, but when something needs doing, discretely, she can handle it."

"And we're sure we've got the funding?"

"Let us say that I've cashed in some of my old holdings and leave it at that," he replied, "We have the money."

"Good. Then come morning, they won't know what hit them."

"And then you'll be in charge?"

"What? Oh, yes, something like that, but that's only where it starts. Once Capsule Corp is in the clear, and not likely to be financially harmed or investigated because of this, then I start on my parents."

"Start what?"

"Ruining them, of course." Maron's expression shifted from a genial to a devious one.

His pants tightened.

"Do you know how beautiful you are when you're vengeful?" he asked.

"Oh, I know. You can repeat it later tonight," she purred, "Not now. No matter how much we both might like it."

"What a shame." Really, he was disappointed. It would've been nice, but waiting would only greaten the sweetness of reaping that reward.

"Call her," Maron whispered in his earhole, "The sooner we get this sorted, the sooner we can enjoy ourselves."

"On it," Frieza replied, and within a few minutes had texted Kale something about making a bit of extra money but not wanting it on 'official channels.' She responded by texting back that she'd be right over and that it had better be worth her time.

"Well?"

"She's on her way. Are you sure I can't convince you to--"

"No, no, with someone on the way here? Naughty boy!" Maron said.

"Works for me."

"GUYS!"

Frieza practically fell off the sofa when Goku's voice rang out behind them again. "Monkey, DON'T DO THAT!"

"I'm sorry! But look! I was right!"

Frieza's eyes widened when he stood and looked at the looming figure behind Goku.

It was Ginyu.

"Captain?" Frieza asked. "Would one of you explain what's going on, please?"

"Well," Goku started, "He posed, and it looked like something Ginyu had done, and since you're nice now I thought it would be okay if I put him back into his body, he got cleaned up and everything--"

"Slow down!" Maron said, "What does this have to do with my frog?"

"He WAS the frog! He can change bodies!"

"You mean the whole time, I--oh--ew!"

"I meant no harm," Ginyu said, "Really, I apologize, my lady. Please forgive me, I thought you were someone else; my intent was never to harm you in any way."

"I just...I hugged you, I've slept with you right next to the bed, and...and..."

"Please, don't worry, ma'am."

"As if we don't have enough to worry about!" Frieza grumbled, "Well, look, Ginyu, we're all glad you're back, maybe he'll bother me less now, but we're in the middle of something--"

He was cut off by a knock at the door.

"That'll be her," Maron said, "I'll get it."

She headed into the main room, and opened the door.

"Hey, Kale! Good you're here. We're going to fill you in on it, but if you're worried about money, I--"

"Kale?"

Ginyu had stepped into the main room, and the second Kale looked past Maron, her eyes fell on him.

And then they considerably widened. Before Maron could so much as give a hint, Kale took a swift stride past her and in Ginyu's direction.

Frieza came out just in time to see Kale reach Ginyu, and--

--then punch him right in the jaw.

Well, that was a surprise.

Chapter Text

Obligatory Christmas Episode, Pt. 1

"Alright, and that's a new gi for Goku, and some wine for Bulma--"

"I'd like to remind you that Bulma just gave birth."

"She won't be breastfeeding forever! Anyway...oh, right! I need to go by the mall and pick up what I got your father."

"I still say you're wasting your time," Frieza replied, "There's nothing you can get him that he'll be happy with."

"Well, I tried regardless. If we're giving gifts, everyone is getting one."

"And that is why I let you handle all the shopping. The only thing I'm giving anyone is a fight with Goku."

"He'll be as happy as if he had good sense," Maron laughed, "Alright, now, you've got her set up for in the morning, right?"

"She'll be on it as soon as soon as the market opens."

"Knowing my family," Maron said, "They'll be a little hungover, possibly a lot if they broke out the extra-special wine to complain about their horrible daughter."

"It's funny you say that, it almost sounds like--"

"Like what?"

"Like you planned it to go this way." Frieza glanced up at her, "You did, didn't you?"

"Freezy, honestly! I'm an airhead, airheads don't just plan things like this!" She giggled and hugged him.

"No, no, you aren't, and I wish you'd stop saying that you are. You came up with the idea to ruin them--so did I, but the important part is that you did think of it--and you should take credit for it. At least, to some degree."

"But that would mean being found out. Do you really want me to do that?"

"No."

"What do you want, then?"

"You've already given it to me."

"Aww..."


"Are you coming out, father?"

"I look ridiculous."

"You were the one who wanted to wear it!"

"I assumed most men on this backwards world did this. I know better now."

Cold was sitting in his chair wearing what at first looked like a massive bit of red velvet, but which on further inspection turned out to be a Santa suit, minus the hat and beard.

"I think you look nice," Maron said, "Red suits you."

"These look like pajamas. This is undignified!"

"We need one at the party anyway."

"Party?"

"Of course!" Maron said, "We thought that since Bulma's had the baby, it would be a great idea to take the stress off her back, and have the Christmas party here. Practically everyone else in the building is having one, so we figured, why not?"

"And you didn't think to inform me?"

"It isn't your house anyway."

"Of all the--"

"Besides," Maron went on, "You could just hole up in your room like you always do."

"Yes, and be hidden away like some kind of embarrassing secret."

"It's perfectly normal for aging parents to live with children on Earth. You're only a secret because you want to be."

"Stop being a spoilsport," Frieza added, "I've managed to acclimate myself to this, so why can't you?"

"You're not the one in a foolish--"

A knock at the door.

Maron went over and opened it a minute later.

"Ginyu? What're you--oh, the decorations!"

"Sorry I'm late," came the reply from behind several large boxes, which were carefully set on the floor. "Work had me busy."

"Work?" Maron asked.

"It's...a long story. Something to do with TV. They said something about sentai and then someone mentioned Kamens, whatever the hell those are. I've been doing some...interviews. Anyway!" Ginyu said nothing more as he got to work putting up a bolt's worth of tinsel.

"We already have too many decorations as it is," Cold grumbled, "Are more really necessary?"

"More is always necessary! It's the festive season! Joy to the world!"

"Ugh...I need a drink." Cold muttered something else that was inaudible, and got up to head for the kitchen.

"You drove him away, Ginyu. Thank you," Frieza said.

"Awww...I'm sorry," Ginyu replied, "I mean, I know he's not into this, but..."

"But what?"

"I wanted to make things cheerful here."

"And normally you would succeed, but my father is determined to have a terrible time. Nothing is going to lift his mood, I tell you. Nothing."

"Excuse me," Maron said, "I think I'll give him his gift early. It might keep him out of our hair when everyone else shows up."

From the wrapped pile underneath the tree in the corner she took a small rectangular box with snowflake-adorned blue wrapping paper. Then she headed for the kitchen.

Cold had gotten out several sizable bottles of bourbon and set them on the counter, and was now going for a glass.

"If you're coming to tell me not to drink--"

"I'm not. Get drunk if that makes you happy. But at least I can give you something to do while you're drowning in expensive booze."

Cold turned around, glass in hand, just as Maron put the box on the counter next to his bourbon.

"Merry Christmas." And then she went back into the living room in silence.

He picked up the box and meticulously opened the gift (he preferred it this way, less mess if he had the wrapping paper in one piece afterwards).

It was...he thought, a DVD set. Yes, DVDs, those primitive little things that movies were put onto on this world.

The cover had a mosaic design and read: Game of Thrones - The Complete Seasons 1-6.

Chapter Text

Obligatory Christmas Episode, Part 2

Kale was the next to arrive, and she made a beeline for the study while Ginyu was busy arranging some sort of festive tablecloth and a runner on the dining table. Frieza followed her.

"I'm just setting up," she replied, "I'll probably sleep in here, too."

"You could've done this at your own home, you know."

"I wanted to be able to report things to you as soon as they happen."

"Is that so?" he laughed, "Or are you here to assault Ginyu again?"

She set up her laptop on the desk, "No. And I would appreciate it if you'd keep him out of my hair."

"There was a time when you wanted him there, I recall."

She scoffed.

"At any rate," he replied, "Set up and don't be a hermit like my father's going to be tonight."

Kale just shrugged, and then Frieza left.

By the time she emerged from the study, Goku and his family had arrived.

"Glad you could make it," Maron said to Chi-Chi, "And glad you could get him here on time!"

"Yes, well," Chi-Chi replied, "If there will be food then he makes more of an effort. Which I find abominable but--Goku, what is it now?"

"When will we eat?"

"Not for a few hours at least."

"I'm hungry now!"

"You're always hungry," Frieza said, "Mrs. Son, thank you for coming...and agreeing to cook for a large crowd."

"Well, I did some cooking ahead of time," she replied, "The desserts and such, for example. Goku?"

Goku sighed and heaved forward a large case. "And I didn't eat any."

"No prizes for behaving, monkey," Frieza replied, "Get them into the kitchen, and don't touch anything!"

"This isn't fair," he replied, "I know you're paying Chi-Chi, but you aren't my boss..."

"Technically, right now I am. Go."

There was more grumbling, but Goku obeyed.

Gohan followed him, lugging yet another case.

Soon after came Vegeta and Bulma, the latter of whom was carrying Trunks.

"Rather surprised to see you here," Maron said to Vegeta. "But you're welcome all the same."

"He's just here because--"

"Because I don't want my woman around you alone." Vegeta's arms were crossed, and he glared at Frieza.

"I have my own woman. Why would I want yours?" Frieza replied, "Calm down, now. Between you and my father you'll probably dour the party up and no one'll enjoy it."

"Your father is here?"

"In his room, probably," Bulma said, "He doesn't seem very social."

"Oh, he's very social. When he's in his element. Here, it's a different thing entirely."

"Pouting about being deposed, no doubt."

"No, he's watching Game of Thrones. It's his Christmas present."

"You did what?" Vegeta asked.

"I gave him the complete series for Christmas. Thought it would cheer him up. Give him some intrigue to look at." Maron gave a little smile. "He's in his room back there."

"That's an idiotic move. Why would you give a series with a ton of violence over dethroned kings and battling for control of the universe's most uncomfortable-looking throne TO A DEPOSED KING?"

"Gee, Vegeta, it sounds like you're a big fan!" Goku's voice came from the kitchen, half-laughing, "Is it that good?"

"That's not important!" Vegeta snapped, "I'm going in there with him to make sure he doesn't...I don't know, blow up the planet."

"You tried to do that!"

"THIS IS DIFFERENT, KAKOROT!"

And with that, Vegeta stormed off.

"I thought he didn't want to leave you alone with Frieza," Maron said.

"Go figure." Bulma shrugged. "Thanks for taking over the job. I mean, I'd have liked a party but Trunks just..."

"Babies make you tired, we understand," Maron said, "If you want to rest, I could always--"

"No," Bulma said, "As standoffish as Vegeta is about his son, he'd flip if you were holding him too long. Probably think that Frieza was going to steal him or something."

"Good thinking," Maron said.

"Besides, I'm sure you two will have one of your own at some point."

Maron seemed to smile at the thought, but Frieza avoided everyone's gaze.

Over the next couple hours, everyone else arrived.

Tien and Chiaotzu, followed shortly by Cooler, were the last to arrive.

And then, finally, the food was ready. A strangely wobbly Vegeta emerged from the back hallway only long enough to grab a few plates before heading right back, but everyone else sat either at the dining table or in random places in the main room.

"You know, I never thought this would happen," Krillin said, "You of all people, I mean."

"What? Living here?"

"Giving up killing people. Vegeta was a tough enough case, but we just assumed it was PTSD or something and he wanted to get away from it. But you?"

"Goku's just got a talent for it," Bulma said, "He could convince almost anyone who tried to kill him, to be his friend instead."

"It can't be that--"

"Show of hands," Bulma said, "Anyone who's ever tried to kill Goku."

Frieza's jaw dropped.

Practically everyone in the room had raised their hands. Bulma, Tien, Chiaotzu, Piccolo, that...pig-looking one whose name escaped him, Ginyu of course...

He looked to Goku. "Explain. Now."

"I just like making friends!" Goku grinned, "Especially if I can fight them! Some of them were going to kill me but decided not to, though. I don't know if that counts."

"It counts," Bulma said, "So now I guess we welcome you to the group." She grinned and raised her glass. "Here's to you, Frieza--the latest member of the 'I Hated Goku, But He Damn Well Made a Friend Out of Me Anyway' club!"

"Cheers," he said dryly.

It was about this point that Cooler looked up and asked, "Where's father? And Vegeta?"

"Vegeta said he was going to go make sure your father wasn't going to blow anything up," Maron said, "I gave him a Game of Thrones box set for Christmas, and Vegeta seemed to think it was a bad idea. I think he's staying back there."

"I wouldn't worry about it," Cooler said.

"You never worry about anything," Frieza replied, "I don't know what Earth has done to you, honestly."

Cooler just shrugged.

A little after dinner was finished, Kale slipped off to the study, and though Ginyu watched her go, he didn't follow.

There were, of course, gifts. Cooler's gift, from Frieza, was a brand new Iphone, which the former was utterly ecstatic about, and also being added to the "family plan."

"You can actually make a call without worrying about what day to buy a new phone card," Maron joked, "We thought it might be nice."

"Thanks," Cooler replied. And for most of the rest of the evening he was fiddling with it. Mind-blowing phrases like "unlimited data" were opening up infinite possibilities for self-amusement at work. He'd never have to rely on the shitty hospital wifi again!

Goku got a handwritten note from Frieza promising one training session free of complaining about having other things to do. Most of the gifts had some point about them, or some usefulness--haircare stuff for Yamcha, an autograph book for Ginyu, and so on.

After dinner, while most everyone else was gathering around the dessert, Frieza decided that it would be a good idea to check on his father, and so headed down the back hallway.

"Drogo is staring again! Take a shot!"

Was that Vegeta?

"That was not an evil stare, that was genuine angry scowling. He's upset."

"You're trying to cheat."

"I am not."

"Fine, fine."

"Ooooooh, molten gold. That qualifies."

There was the sound of more drinks being poured. What the hell?

"I've done much worse than that," he heard Cold say, "I'd have made the death much more slow and painful, not fast and painful. What's the fun in killing someone with molten anything?"

"That wasn't too fast," came Vegeta's comeback, "Viserys--"

"I still say I could've done better."

"What's going on?" Frieza walked into the room, noting immediately the heavy scent of alcohol that seemed to invade his nose with extreme prejudice. There were a dozen empty bottles on the floor, and a general air of drunkenness.

"We're having a little contest. That I'm going to win."

"I'm winning this game. You're drinking double because you're taller, it wouldn't be fair otherwise," Vegeta said.

"What is this contest over?"

"We drink every time something from the list happens."

"...why?"

"Why else? It's better than being out there with the Happy Smile club!" Vegeta snapped, "At least in here there's reason."

"A man just got executed with molten gold, from what I heard. I would hardly call that reason."

"Reminds me of the good old days," Cold piped in, "I didn't have to worry about my younger son dating an Earth woman, or my elder son watching what he spends."

"Things were tougher but they were better," Vegeta replied, "No woman on my back about getting on with Kakorot..."

"No taking orders from anyone..."

"And I could get hammered whenever the hell I wanted."

Frieza was about to step out of the room and away from this bizarre reminiscence of the old days, when Vegeta stood up.

"I'll prove it," he said, swaying a little, "I could do better."

"Vegeta, there's no need for that."

"No, I want to see this." Cold took the bottle he'd been pouring from and took a long drink from it. "Go on, Vegeta. Prove it."

"Galac--"

"VEGETA YOU'D BETTER NOT--" Frieza started to shout, but it was too late.

"GUN FIRE!"

The blast shattered the wall and sent bits of metal, wood, and plaster everywhere. Thankfully, that was all that was damaged--the blast had veered off into the sky, rather than across the way at any other apartment buildings.

"What the HELL DO YOU TWO THINK THIS IS?!" Frieza's voice was breaking as he stormed over to his father, "THIS IS YOUR FAULT!"

"What, how? I'm not his keeper, that's...that's your job."

"Father...I've wanted to do this for a long time. This time, you deserve it."


"Mama?"

"What, honey?"

"There's a big hole in the apartment building across the street." The little boy stood on a chair to see out the window better.

"Billy, it's not nice to lie."

"But mama--there's a guy beating up Santa Claus! Wait. Is that Santa Claus? He has horns!"

"Billy, sit down and play with your toys," his mother responded. She took him from the chair and set him down in front of the train set he'd begged her for. "Here. Don't you want to play with your new train set?"

"Yeah."

Santa probably scared the guy, he finally decided. His mother had told him once that grownups didn't like it when strange people showed up out of nowhere, even if they did have presents.

Chapter Text

Photos

The aftermath was anticlimactic.

Frieza had Goku take Vegeta elsewhere, and let the party finish out. Bulma asked why, but he only shrugged. If he stopped doing something every time there was an explosion, he'd never have had any fun at all.

It was a bit embarrassing to convince his father to sleep on the sofa by telling him it was the Iron Throne, and even more embarrassing when it worked. Ginyu offered to keep a watch on him, and remained awake.

Cooler left early and said something about having a conference to go to the next day.

Kale stayed, and went right to sleep on the sofa in the study.

Everyone else left, and finally Frieza and Marron were able to get to sleep.

After putting the trashcan from the kitchen in front of the sofa and pulled a blanket out of the linen closet to put over Cold as well, Ginyu paced around the living room for several minutes. Things...were certainly different now, weren't they?

Lords Frieza and Cooler, and even King Cold, living in this quiet way on Earth? The two former had dealt with it well, but the latter...well, that part was worrying. The King had always been fond of his alcohol, but drank it moderately, and if not moderately at least slowly, so that he was never more than mildly buzzed.

He'd never gotten this drunk before. This reminded him of the time the boys went on their three-day bender...

It hadn't been pretty, and he didn't want to see it happen again.

Cold got sick once, but turned onto his back afterwards. Ginyu, once he saw Cold wasn't particularly awake, turned him on his side and thankfully there was snoring soon afterwards.

A change indeed.

Aside from Cold, though, the changes all seemed to be positive. Lord Frieza was doing well, and getting along with Goku, who was actually kind of happy to have Ginyu himself around. Lord Cooler had been on Earth the longest, seemingly, and the difference in him was most striking. The guess there, of course, was that he had not had to compete with Frieza, and thus flourished.

It was nice.

His thoughts turned then to Kale, and he headed toward the back hallway where the study was. Her of all people he hadn't expected to see here, but at least the greeting was one he'd rather expected. It was natural that she should be angry, considering...

Ginyu opened the door to the study, and saw her stretched out on the sofa in the corner. Her phone was on the endtable beside it, plugged into the nearby outlet and open to a screen of apps with the background of what he assumed was her cat.

Ping

He glanced over the screen as the text notification popped up and against his better judgment, tapped on it to open it.

No, you don't look fat

He glanced at the sender.

Cooler?!

He scrolled up, finding a from-above selfie that Kale had obviously taken a few hours before, along with:

Do I look fat?

That was an odd question to ask. Were they...?

More scrolling.

I'm telling you, he's a big jerk, you can do better than him

Yeah, but he's really good-looking.

Your standards used to be higher, Kale, what happened?

The guys who met the standards were either married, not interested in an older woman, or didn't like sex...or they were put off by a woman stronger than them. Stuff like that.

OMG. What kind of guy doesn't like sex?

You'd be surprised how common it is. It's fine, but sucks when the guy's a real gem otherwise

Well, on the surface it looked like a friendly conversation. But he read on to an even earlier bit.

I'm telling you, I feel terrible.

You want me to go flip his car?

I already crushed the air out of his tires, but I'll keep you in mind.

Well you've done so much for me, I figured, why not

You just want to get into my little black book

Little black book? Why would....oh. Oh. Oh.

He couldn't figure it out. She'd been flirtatious before, sure, but...

Eh, it wasn't his business. Not anymore. She'd made it perfectly clear she wanted nothing to do with him.

Ginyu put the phone back down, and after sitting with Cold for another hour to be sure he'd be fine, left.


The next morning, Kale was sitting at the dining room table with a few bags on the floor by her chair when Frieza and Marron came in for breakfast.

"Well?" Marron asked, "How did it go?"

"How it went," Kale replied, with a smirk, "Is that you...well, I, on paper...have made a sound investment. The controlling state of Chestnut Cosmetics."

"That's wonderful!"

"Indeed. And no one's going to see you leaving, are they?" Frieza asked.

"No," Kale said, "They're not. I'm leaving from the roof and I'll be leaving wearing a wig and some glasses."

"That seems a bit excessive, but..."

"You can't be too careful." Kale smiled, and from one of the bags on the floor she took a model head on which was the wig.

"You, a blonde?" Frieza laughed. "A bit long, isn't it?"

"It's a little beyond blonde," Marron said, taking a careful look over it. "More like...almost white. Four braids that connect in the back...hey, wait a minute! This is a Daenerys wig!"

"Who?"

"Daenerys, the dragon-mother from Game of Thrones. The hair she has in the series looks just like this!"

"Yeah," Kale replied, "Not mine, though, I had to borrow it from a friend."

"What, they dress up like this woman?" Frieza asked, "What kind of an idiot would do that?"

"The kind that's a big fan, Frieza. It happens, it's perfectly fine." Marron said, "We owe you, Kale."

"I'd prefer to not owe her a favor, though."

"What do you think I'm going to do, ask for your soul?" Kale shrugged, and got her hair ready. "I meant what I said. I want a date. That's all."

"Do I look like a dating service?"

"No, you look like an excellent judge of character."

Frieza was stunned, and stood for a moment waiting for her to start laughing. But she didn't. She just finished messing about with her hair and then put the wig on.

And then she left.

Huh.


Kale, can I have my wig back now?

Yeah, sure, I'm almost there.

I'm serious, we're almost at the convention center.

Cool your jets, I'll get it to you in time, alright?

I mean, it's not like I'm entering the costume contest, but still. That thing is delicate and I paid way too much money for it.

I brought the head with me and everything, Cooler. It's fine.

Chapter Text

Think of Me

"You, having trouble?" Kale laughed, "Cooler, you've lead an entire army, and this scares you?"

"Maybe. First of all, what's the guarantee that--"

"You never know. Really, you never know. Way back when, I never thought I'd be in any sort of a committed relationship, but it happened anyway."

"And it didn't end well."

Kale shrugged. "Sometimes they just don't last. Fact of life. If you never ask, you'll never know."

It was New Year's Day, and a belated party was going on. Once more, Frieza had elected to host it in his apartment, and once more, Ginyu had done a lot of the decorating and legwork.

Cooler's source of nervousness had arrived a little late, giving him plenty of time to have a private freakout, and Kale was doing her absolute best to calm him down.

"I don't see the issue," she said, "But then again, I'm not you."

"It's different, when it's another race," Cooler replied, "It's fine with one of the Arcosians, you see, but if we elect to...outside of our race..."

"And Frieza's doesn't count, because?"

"Marron's...different."

"I see."

"It's just not done."

"Since when do you care about social convention? You've been on this planet for twenty years! You've had hookups aplenty!"

"They were...private. This is public. But...you're right." Cooler took a deep breath, "Wish me luck."

He approached the sofa facing the television, and tried to calm himself a little more. What he'd said was true. Sexuality was very fluid within Arcosian society, due mainly to the fact that close to 100% of the population were hermaphroditic. Expressing as male was the norm, but there was no quibbling about expressing as female, or about to which set of features one was attracted.

But if one chose to dally outside of the Arcosian kind, that was where things began to get...strict.

One's female parts were solely for the purpose of breeding with one's own kind after marriage. If one desired to dabble with other races, it was demanded that it be with women only. And Cooler had never thought too much about it, but quite honestly...

He'd just...

"Hey, you want to sit down? It's a little...dull, playing against the computer." Tien gave him a wave and Cooler took a seat.

"I haven't played this version before," he said, glancing up at the screen. Mario Tennis, Wii U edition. He'd yet to get his own.

"Eh, you aren't missing anything, then," Tien replied, "It's a lot less varied than some of the previous iterations."

"I didn't see you as a videogame sort."

"Chiaotzu kept wanting a partner for the two player games, and...well, I couldn't help it. Some of them are very interesting. And some are good for killing time."

"I see."

"Alright, I've got Peach."

Cooler selected Luigi.

The game began.

On-screen, Peach struck the ball into Cooler's court.

I don't have a chance in hell, he thought, Sure, Tien's free, but I don't think he swings that way.

The ball was struck back.

On the other hand, he might just never have thought of it.

Luigi did a leap shot.

We've been out around others before, so it's not as if he dislikes me.

Both moved closer to the net, and a series of quick bats back and forth began.

"You're pretty good," Cooler said.

"It didn't take me long to master this game," Tien replied.

"You think I can beat you?"

"Maybe."

"Maybe, huh? Do you know who I am?"

The back and forth speed run continued, with no signs of stopping.

"I know who you were." Tien laughed.

"And now?"

No answer.

The ball went high, and Luigi struck it to the opposite end of the court--score.

"Come back from that," Cooler teased.

"You're certainly cocky."

"It comes with the territory," he replied, "No royal on Arcosia has ever been known to be overly humble."

"Yet you have been."

"I wouldn't say that, exactly."

"Cooler, you're actually working. I can't really say the same of, say, Vegeta."

"What is he doing?" And Tien did seem to think well of him, but still...he didn't want to say anything if it wasn't clear. Not that he was really that afraid, of course, but he would prefer to say nothing at all if he wasn't certain of his reception.

Back. Forth. Back. Forth.

"Training. That's about all I know."

"I realize he's not used to anything else, but he could at least try."

"The mighty Vegeta?" Tien shrugged his enormous shoulders and gave a little half-laugh. "What made you start working?"

Back, forth, back, forth.

"I wanted to be a doctor," Cooler replied, "I haven't told anyone this, but...I was really rather relieved when I was sent back."

"What, because you didn't have to compete with your brother anymore?"

"How'd you know?"

"It's pretty obvious," Tien said, "Despite his grumbling, your father still seems to favor Frieza."

"It's always been that way."

"At least you have something to call your own now. What are you specializing in?"

"Trauma. ER surgery, essentially."

"You'll be putting your speed to work, then."

Peach scored.

"Unlike onscreen here."

"You can't win them all," Tien replied.

Back, forth.

"Last one."

"Uh-huh."

One more strike--

And Luigi scored again.

"Looks like you win," Tien said.

"Guess I really made a recovery there, huh." It would probably be better to choose a time when there were fewer people around, anyway.

"See, you can be quick when you want to be. That makes me wonder."

"About what?"

"Why haven't you asked me out yet?" Maybe he'd guessed wrong. What a time to make such a mistake...

But then he glanced in Cooler's direction, saw the blush spreading over his face, and relaxed.


Cold sat slumped in his chair, staring at the door, determined to have nothing to do with the farcical party in the living room. He'd been given an absolutely tiny room, at least, in his opinion. He was used to a lot of space, not...not this...

And the door was too small. The wall it was on wasn't any better, either...he had to stoop to get out. A prison, yes. That's what this was. A prison.

He let his blurred gaze wander, from that awful door to the wall it was set in. Blue wallpaper. There were some random pictures on the wall, one held a garden, the next, a country field, and the last frame on the wall contained the painted sprawl of a busy festival ground.

Food, drinks, gems, games, entertainments...he could see, and smell, all of it.

A painting booth. There was a painting booth, and the sound of shuffling paper.

Crinkle

"Prince Cold?"

He said nothing, and groped for the next bottle. His vision was blurred and the label was unreadable, but on opening it the scent told him all he needed to know.

This would kill it.

Half the bottle was gone, and he felt he was almost in the clear, when--

"I'll try to do you justice, but given your stature...oh no, I can do it, but it will take a little time."

No. No.

He'd lost everything as it was. Did he have to be reminded of her, too?

"Oh, me? Samuia."

The rest of the bottle vanished, and Cold neither knew nor cared how, and the now-empty bottle in his hand clattered to the floor. He took a deep breath.

The stalls were all gone.

Neither they nor the painting they were in had ever been there. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and muttered. It was the alcohol. It was always the alcohol.

Cold opened his eyes once more. There was pain in his head, his gut, and his leg, and nausea he could barely control.

But he was, for the first time since being forced into this wretched hole, sure of what to do.

Chapter Text

Riker

"Father, I am going to marry Samuia."

"You'll do no such thing," his father glared up at him, "Are you out of your senses, to be proposing to a woman of inferior birth?"

"Her blood makes no difference to me. It is her I love. Do you really expect me to marry a woman I barely know and whose only ambition is to secure a crown? She actively despises my company!"

"She hails from an ancient line of nobility. An alliance with her family would give us further security. What would we gain from your little artist?"

"I don't weigh everything by gain like you do. And in any case, it hardly matters. I asked her father a few days ago, and he has given his permission. I asked her for her hand this morning."

"You are determined to ruin yourself, aren't you? Fine. Have your woman." He stormed away at that. Cold could have her, but he was determined to be sure that he didn't have her for very long.


"You've done very well for yourself, Nip." Cold rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked at the screen, which showed his brother's child, an Arcosian of the grand height of four feet exactly. Short, but well-suited to lead.

"I've been trying, uncle," Nip gave a nervous smile, "We forged a reluctant peace with those who attacked us once you two decided to stay on Earth, but...well...I'm sure you understand. To have it happen again...well, the people are very unhappy about it. If it weren't for my wife, I wouldn't have the time to handle a lot of the issues that the people are facing."

"You married?" Cold asked. "Who is she? Which family does she--"

"She's not from any of the important families...well, she's not an Arcosian at all."

"No?"

"Tsukiryuu's a saiyan."

"A saiyan?! I thought there were only three of them left!" As if Frieza's dallying with an Earth woman wasn't bad enough! Nip was the new ruler, he should've--

"Frieza...was not exactly thorough. There were some on other worlds, and still others who decided against returning to Planet Vegeta when given the order," Nip said, "This one is different, though. She wasn't raised by the saiyans, she was raised by the Tuffles."

"...and how did that happen?"

"I'm not entirely sure. She prefers not to speak about it." There was a shrug there. "She's been helping out with making sure the poorer Arcosians are taken care of. Today's the first day she's been back in several weeks."

"That sounds like no saiyan I ever knew. But if she's being helpful, I suppose she should be commended for it."

"Now, what did you call me over? Just to chat?"

"No." Cold's demeanor shifted from casual to serious in an instant, and he looked directly at Nip, "I would like to affirm that I am completely sober right now, so that you understand this is not simply the wishes of a drunkard."

"I can see that you're sober. What's wrong?"

"I want my crown."

"This is a very bad time for a joke," Nip said. He didn't have to remind Cold what it meant--the crown being used only twice in a monarch's life: for their coronation, and their burial.

"I am being completely serious," Cold replied, "I've been deposed; I've been made a fool of. I've spent most of the last month in a drunken stupor, disgracing myself, and only not dying because Frieza's underling feels it his duty to be sure I don't fall asleep on my back."

"I--"

"Frieza keeps me here only because he wants to be sure that I don't kill anyone or try to take back my throne from you. Both he and Cooler barely speak to me. None of those back on Arcos will speak to me because of the uproar this has caused there. I--Nip, I have nothing left!"

"And because of that, you want death?"

"I wish only an end to this farce," Cold replied. "I care little for what you call it."

Nip was was silent at that, but after a moment's consideration, looked up. "What happened to the strongest Arcosian I knew? The one who would do anything for his family? The one I looked up to as the model of the man I wanted to be?"

Cold was silent. What reply could he even make to such a statement?

"I am not going to help you kill yourself, uncle. Now listen--I am going to be making a trip to Earth to discuss something with Frieza very soon. I expect to see you when I arrive. Alright?"

"Optimism is not going to change the situation."

"I will call you every day if I have to. There are people who still care about you, you know--you just won't accept them on any terms other than your own."

"They need to--"

"You need to understand that your sons were about as ready to conform to traditional Arcosian conventions as you were. You chafed under it like anyone else. And you came out doing well. Please--make an attempt to be friendly. They don't hate you, they just don't like the way you treat them."

"Fine," Cold said, defeated. "Fine. You win."

"It'll be worth it, uncle. You can still be happy, even if it comes in an unexpected manner."


Ginyu took a deep breath and knocked on the apartment door. She avoided every kind of contact with him, and he was willing to let it go at that--after he'd explained the situation in full. He thought if he could simply explain it to her, then perhaps she could be a little less angry at him and they could be civil to one another.

"Who is it?"

"...it's me."

"Ginyu, I'm not opening the door for you," came Kale's voice.

"Look, I just want to explain--"

"There is nothing for you to explain. You made your position clear years ago and I don't think it benefits either of us to talk about it again."

"I didn't mean for it to come out the way it did. That's not what I meant."

The door opened, and Kale appeared, eyes fixed on his, glaring angrily. "After weeks of barely going out with me due to all those missions you got, I planned something for us. Just the two of us. And then you got another assignment for that day, you didn't even bother to let me know, even though you knew in advance! I sat in that restaurant for two hours waiting for you--and what did you tell me when you got back?"

He still remembered it, and the tone of voice he'd used in saying it.

"When I asked why you didn't let me know you had to leave, you said, and I quote, 'I had better things to do.'"

"Maybe not better, but there were a lot--"

"All I asked for was for you to take one miserable day off from being Captain Ginyu, one measly day from being Team Dad, or at least give me a good reason why you couldn't do that."

"Guldo was still in the healing tank at that point, alright?" Ginyu burst out, "We brought him back nearly dead from the previous mission, barely got him into the healing tank in time, and he was still there when we came back from the next one. I had to make sure everyone else was doing well after all that. I just--I didn't have time for you."

"I know," she replied, "And that's why I left. You were the only thing really keeping me there, and since I had no interest in being the Team Mom and nothing else, there was little point in staying."

"You didn't even say goodbye. I remember that."

"I had nothing to say goodbye to." she looked away, "I hope you don't think that because the situation has changed, that you can just swan back in like nothing happened."

"I don't think that at all," Ginyu replied, "I just wanted to clear it up. And what do you mean, the Team Mom and nothing else? When I was able to, I--"

"--avoided my every advance as often as possible, like I had the plague or something. I probably expected too much of you, but when someone drops the 'I could never have sex again and be happy' line, it tends to tank my interest quite a bit."

"It's not my fault I don't have a sex drive."

"We both should have figured that one out sooner. We're incompatible--not having sex to you is as important as having it is to me."

"...so..."

"I would be willing to start as if I don't know you. Whether we can be friends or not, I don't know. Now...shoo. I have a trip to make." She shifted a backpack on her back, and headed past him.

"Where?"

"New Namek. Frieza's got something he wants me to wish for, and Bulma's given me the dragon radar."

"Why do you keep doing favors for him?"

"He has money," Kale shrugged, "I have a lot of free time."

She rounded the corner, and was off.

That went better and worse than he'd expected, honestly.

He headed home. She'd always been a good friend, and if he could get back to that level with her, he'd be happy.

Chapter Text

Salubrious

"Another month before your return, Cold?"

"It can't be helped," he replied, "Father's made several threats, and I can't take my eyes off him for now."

"So you said three months ago." Samuia sighed, "Frieza keeps asking for his papa. Cooler's beginning to wonder what he did wrong. Can't you...can't you appoint someone else to handle this? Just for a bit?"

"No. I--I can't explain it right now, but I can't just trust this to someone all of a sudden. That would be the surest way to lose you, and the boys."

"And there's no one you trust?"

"No."

She sighed. "Alright. Good luck."

There was no longer any lying to the boys about it.

"When will he come back?" Cooler asked.

"I don't know," she replied. "Your grandfather is making things difficult for him."

"But grandfather isn't actually doing anything. He's just blustering."

"Your father doesn't believe that." She was brought back once more to a point that she'd thought of many times, over many nights of sleeping alone. This was hardly the happy marriage she had expected.

At least she still had the boys.


"Father?"

Cold turned over on the sofa. His head was throbbing, but his vision was clear...enough.

"How long have you been in here?"

"I...slept here. It was easier than getting into my room." He was lying, of course. He hadn't slept at all.

"Maybe if you didn't get pickled every night--"

"Maybe if my door wasn't so small." Cold struggled, and sat up. "I'm going to go see Vegeta."

"Why?" Frieza glanced over.

"He's at least honest about hating me." That, too, was a lie, but he preferred not to talk much of this particular friendship. The 'old days' speech seemed to get repeated a lot.

And gathering a few bottles first, Cold left. His hands were shaking, but by that point Frieza had turned away.

"At least he's got a friend," Maron replied, walking up from the back hallway. "He needs some kind of company."

"And at least he's not depending on me for it," Frieza replied.

"What, did he used to do that?"

"Oh, no, certainly not. Before we came here, he was consumed with his work and his empire. I was worried he'd try and get friendly now that he doesn't have that to occupy his time."

"You'd think he'd spend more time with you. I thought you were his favorite son," Maron mused.

"I was. He saw me twice a year."

"Well," she said suddenly, "Why don't we stop thinking about that? How'd work go?"

"Well enough," Frieza replied, "Your parents are having a royal fit about the whole situation."

"I wish I could've seen it," Maron replied, "They can't do anything about it, can they?"

"Not that I know of. But that could change."

"I'll have to figure something to keep them off balance, but it will be no problem." Maron tugged him by the arm. "Come on."

"What did you do?"

"I didn't do anything, silly. Well...maybe I bought something."

"What did you get?" he asked nervously. With this kind of glee, it was hard to tell.

"Just something to play with."

"For you, or us?"

"Me...and us. You're probably tired of being the man all day, so I thought it would be nice for me to have a turn." She gave him a grin. "I already have the radio set up to a good station for it and everything."

She planned well, didn't she?


The thing had certainly done its job. After the first round it had gone messy, and one little joke about where the mess belonged lead to two more rounds...and Frieza was still a little weak-kneed as a result. Not that he would admit that to anyone.

She took it to the bathroom to clean it, and Frieza sat back a bit gingerly.

It wasn't something he'd ever thought of letting anyone do that wasn't one of his own kind, but he'd let her do it anyway. And after the first time, it was almost difficult to go back to being the one on top.

"Well," he mused under his breath, "A big change from what you were before."

"What's that?" Maron's voice rang out from the bathroom.

"You're very different now, from what you were before."

"I was a lot of things before."

"And a lot of things, you still are. Beautiful, smart--"

He saw her cringe.

"What's wrong?"

"I wasn't supposed to be smart," she said quickly, "I just--I was supposed to look pretty. I hate thinking of that period."

"Why?"

"I was...very unhappy," Maron replied, moving back in to join him on the bed. "I'd just lost the only decent guy I'd ever dated through my own stupidity and..."

"You weren't stupid."

"Yes, I was." she took a deep breath. "I turned down a proposal and my first thought was that he wasn't good enough for me anyway."

What a conversation to have after bedtime fun this was. His own first inclination was to go to sleep, but Maron obviously needed a bit of talking to. She seemed to feel horrible guilt for this...thought of hers.

"You were raised that way. It's hard to break out of old habits."

"Can we not talk about it?" she asked. "What about us?"

"I try not to have serious conversations after a romp," he replied, "But what about us?"

"Do you think I'm a snob?"

"I think you tried too hard to be one before," Frieza answered, "And being brought up to it, you played the part well."

"You don't think I am now?"

"I think you've earned the right to be a snob, in some ways."

"And my stupidity?"

"Camouflage isn't stupidity," he laughed.

"It was easy to be stupid," she replied, "People were nice. They explained things in more detail, and opened doors more often. And stared, but that..."

"And until I caught you, you got away with it," Frieza said. The music in the background was building into some terrible pop song, and he was trying like hell to not let it ruin the moment.

"I knew reading would get me in trouble one day."

"Me? Trouble?"

"With your history, that's the least bad thing you've been called." But his history...seemed far away. He was a different man now, and she could hardly think that he'd ever done some of the things that Bulma and the others had told her about. He admitted it, sure, but... "You put Morgoth to shame."

"I take that as a compliment." It was better than the alternative, after all.

The annoying background song finally ended. Frieza rolled over to silence the radio before it could start another.

"That was Love Dragon Time, our top hit for the fifth week in a row. And that brings us to the end of TJ and the Wombat's time, everybody! Stay tuned for the Afternoon Love program, run by our very own Birdie Hawkins--"

Click.

"Seeing as how we've already made use of being alone," Frieza replied, "Why don't we go out?"

Chapter Text

Eight

Goku was glad the road was clear, because he was pretty sure he'd been speeding his whole way into town.

He'd sold the crops at about seven, and the store opened an hour later, so it hadn't left him much time. There was no telling how fast it'd sell out, considering the number of fans in the vicinity.

He arrived, thankfully accident-free, about forty-five minutes later.

It was like waiting for one of Chi-Chi's meals to be done.

He pressed his face to the glass.

There were a few workers inside stocking the display, he could see it, even. It was right there, he could teleport in, and...

They would think he was there to rob them. And then there'd be all kinds of awkward explanations and he'd probably be last in line to get the thing.

7:55.

Five more minutes. That's all it was.

Goku paced for a bit in front of the door, glancing briefly at someone else who'd just arrived. They were probably here for it too.

7:56.

Someone was approaching the door--!

Nope. It was just to put up a couple new posters on the windows.

Maybe he'd get one of those too...no, he'd promised Chi-Chi that the only money he'd be spending would be on the--

7:57.

The display was completely full now, and there were a couple other people milling around outside. One or two of them were chattering about some fight or the other, and debating usefulness of ranks and such.

Well, he...

7:58.

Alright. He just had to think about something else. The bookshelf he'd made had enough room for another one, and then he'd have to start putting them on the next shelf. Three should be enough, right?

7:59.

The person putting up the posters had finished, and was now looking at his watch. After a moment's thought he seemed to reach into his pocket and start shuffling around for something.

8:00.

The person started unlocking the doors, and the second he was able, Goku rushed past the guy and toward the red-and-yellow display. Finally!

He was first to check out, and in less than a minute was out the door again.

"Why did I have to drive here?" he took a deep breath and tried to steel his will. The forty-five minute drive back was one of the longest waiting periods he'd ever had to endure.

Well, at least Chi-Chi would leave him alone for a while. He'd made decent money, and that was--

The house was in sight. He parked, gave her a kiss, and handed over the money before rushing up to their room and sitting down.

Finally. Finally!

He drew it out of the bag the employee had given him, and the set expression on his face shifted to one of utter joy as he read the words on the front:

ONE PUNCH MAN.

Chapter Text

The Birthday, Part 1

"What are you getting him?"

Frieza looked up at Cooler, who was grinning like...Goku, actually.

"I'm not telling you," he replied, "Because you're just going to take that and go bigger."

"Who says I didn't already do that?"

"You can't afford to do it."

"I can now." Cooler grinned.

"I thought you were only a surgical intern...resident...whatever it was?"

"I actually haven't been for a few months now. I just wanted to be sure that I was out of the woods as far as job security before I started crowing about it. Now, back to how I was obviously going to win this little fight."

"You aren't going to win, if I have anything to say about it." Frieza said, "I got him a bottle his favorite wine from back on Arcos."

"I got him a winery tour."

"I'm not done," Frieza said.

"Nor am I."

While they were arguing, Cold himself emerged from the back hallway.

"Father, we were just talking about your birthday," Cooler said quickly, "What do you want?"

"Whatever you're planning to get me," Cold replied.

"Father, really," Frieza started, turning towards him. "What do you want?"

Cold seemed to pause and for a moment his expression was blank.

"Well?" Cooler asked.

"I don't know. I can't imagine there's much I haven't already had at least once." And then he left.

"Well he's gotten a bit cheerier..."

Frieza shrugged. "He's been going out more often."

"And you're not concerned about that?"

"He's not appearing on the evening news in any murder cases, so I don't think he's done anything that requires that kind of attention."

"We should really find him something to do." Cooler said. His father was busy, yes, but...he had an odd, disturbed feeling about it. His father wouldn't say where he went, what he was doing--he just wasn't giving any information about anything.

"He's found something to do already. You're worrying about nothing!"

"Right, nothing...now back to the birthday presents, I think I--"

"I'm getting him a throne."

"A throne. In here?"

"There," he said, pointing to an empty space near the television. "It'll be a gaudy piece of garbage, but he likes gaudy. It should make him happy."

"You'd put a throne in here? I thought you had good taste."

"I do, but--"

"What does it look like?" Cooler asked quickly.

Frieza showed a picture from his phone.

Cooler burst out laughing. "You could see that golden monstrosity from space!"

"I thought--"

"Is it worth turning your home into a hideous nightmare?" Cooler asked, "I can't imagine Maron will be happy about that!"

"Well, I had to do something, alright?!"

"What do you care, anyway? I thought you were happy just letting him stew."

Frieza turned away. "I don't want him to keep stewing on my sofa, that's all."

"You could just tell him you'd slept with her on it."

"Good afternoon, Cooler. Don't you have work to go to?"

"Fine. I do, actually. Have a good time deciding what sunglasses to buy. The sun comes right through here, you know."

"Don't remind me!"


"Shiver my timbers, shiver my sails! Dead men tell no tales!"

"And they show this to children?" Cold, who was currently occupying three chairs, was looking up at the bar's television with a mix of awe and disgust in his eyes.

He was holding a strange court in front of the television. There were five or six men in varying states of intoxication around him, who in their current state were finding the huge man to be a fascinating enigma.

"Yeah," one replied, "It's an adventure story about buried treasure, and pirates who buried it, and..."

"And they're doing this with puppetry? That seems...difficult." Another shot down.

"They never shied away from something hard," said another, shrugging. "Rip, man..."

There was general approbation at that remark, and then another round of drinks. Cold finished his three quickly and went for more.

"Do you just...never get drunk?" one guy asked.

"Look how big he is. Probably takes forever to get drunk."

"Well there has to be a limit," A third said.

"I don't get that drunk," Cold cut in, "At most, I get sleepy. That's it."

"You just need the right kind of booze!" the first one said, "Come on, we're getting you fucked up!"

Chapter Text

The Birthday, Part 2

"...oh, man, that's terrible."

These were good friends, Cold thought, as he downed yet another shot. He had money, but they, barely knowing him, were still buying him drinks.

It helped dull the pain.

"Did you get back to her?" one of them asked.

"I did," Cold replied, "My father was gone. Everything was finally fine."

"Was too late, wasn't it?" another guy asked. "I remember that, man. Came home from a long deployment only to find the wife gone and my bank account cleaned out."

"Yes." he took a deep breath, "It was too late. I came back to find that she was visiting family."

"She didn't go home to her mother?"

"Her mother was awful," Cold replied.

"Oh. Well that sucks."

It certainly had.

"So what explanation did she give? Didn't she know you were coming?"

"I'm not sure, to be honest. But she was...somewhat frosty...when I did speak to her. She said she hadn't expected a surprise visit, and that she would be back in a few days. So I waited for her to come back. And then when she did come back..."

He sighed, and gestured to the bartender to give him the whole bottle.

"...she was polite, she was cordial, she was...it was like speaking to a friend. A roommate."

"Y'didn't get a damn thing out of her, did you?" someone else said, "Like a stranger."

Cold managed a laugh. "Not a thing. We had dinner, she gave me news on our boys, on local gossip, and...it was the most hollow thing you could imagine."

"What did you do?"

"We had a few more awkward dinners," he replied, "And I was trying, trying harder than I had in months, to be her husband. And nothing happened."

"She didn't respond to it at all?"

"She told me several times she was trying to, but that it was hard to see me that way again." Cold took a deep breath and poured himself another drink. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing."

"I wouldn't have been able to either," said the one to his left, "That's not something you just say to a man. What happened next?"

Cold scoffed. "We argued, of course. I refused to believe she could see me as anything but her husband. What was I, if not that? She didn't have an answer, but I kept pressing for one."

"Did you finally get one?"

"I can't even remember exactly what she said on that head. It took weeks to get anything out of her about it. But, finally...she said one thing, I said another, she called me an ass...and I..." he shook his head, and drained his full glass. "...I said that I should have listened to my father and that she was exactly what he had warned me about, and then because I was a complete idiot I said she was exactly like her mother."

There was a pause.

"I didn't mean it, of course, but I saw the look on her face and knew I'd messed everything up. After that, she stopped even pretending to get along with me. I moved on to work that needed my attention, and while I sent her flowers, or gifts on appropriate holidays, we rarely spent an evening together."

"Aw, man..."

"And then...she died."

Someone in the corner was sniffling, and others were getting damp eyes, but Cold wasn't noticing it. All he noticed was that he was emptying the bottle, bit by bit.

"She was visiting Frieza--he's my younger son--during some conflict or the other that he was handling with the soldiers he was in command of. He said that some--" he tried to think of how to put this, considering these men didn't seem as if they knew of any world outside their own, "--rebels from the trouble nearby had been the cause of it. They..."

Gods, he wished these people knew what was outside their system!

"...shot her, and to add to it, they burned her as well."

"Why'd they burn her? Is it a gang thing?"

"No. But it's a severe dishonor for us. My kind, I mean."

"What did your son do about it?" he asked.

"He had them executed, of course." Frieza let him know of the news, and that nothing remained of the killer. And life went on. Work was all he had after that, and he'd thrown himself into it with everything that he had.

The pain dwindled year by year, but he still missed her.

...and he was making a fool of himself here, pouring out his heart to complete strangers!

What a miserable birthday tomorrow was going to be.


Kale glanced back. "Really?"

"Really. I'm glad you went to the trouble of wishing me back."

"I thought you were happy with heaven, you know...it's heaven and all."

"I was. At first. But...you know how it is. You try to stop loving them, but it never really goes away."

"Boy do I," Kale gave a weak laugh. "You'd think twenty plus years would be enough to kill love, wouldn't you?"

Samuia joined her laugh. "You would think so. In a way, I was...relieved, I guess, to hear that things had changed. When I heard through the grapevine that they'd just...settled...on Earth, I was hopeful, but..."

"But you wanted to kill that feeling, didn't you?" Kale asked.

There was a nod.

"I won't press for details, but there is one thing that mystifies me. How did you get Cooler in on this plan to bring you back?"

"He liked to hide it, but as violent as he could be in his conquering, he, and to quote something your beau once told me, 'still cares about his mother like any man.'"

"But how did you contact him?"

"You can't expect me to tell you everything about the afterlife," Samuia replied with a laugh. "I was being visited by an old friend that I used to invite to palace feasts. He had this little...ability to speak to people long distance."

"That's a hell of a distance."

"It certainly was. Now, what about you?"

"What about me?"

"Are you going to give your man another chance?"

"I--I don't know," Kale replied, "He probably wouldn't give me another one in the first place, and in the second...well...he's very uninterested in something very important to me."

"...it's sex, isn't it."

"How did you know?"

"Cold was the same way. And you know what it was?"

"What?"

"Stress."

"...stress? Stress causes a lack of interest in sex?"

"I'm sure that he was far more stressed as Captain Ginyu than he'll ever be as plain old Ginyu. A long list of things to do all day tends to make one too tired for anything at the end of the day. It ends up as one more chore to plan for, as opposed to something that should be enjoyed."

Kale sighed, and looked back at the ship's control panel.

"If he's otherwise perfect, and circumstances are different...why not at least give it a try?"

"How do you suggest starting?"

"Something normal, like going out for coffee, and not walking into the room and saying, 'Hi, I'm alive again' like I'm going to have to do."

Kale couldn't help but laugh. "You're right."

Coffee sounded good. Ginyu was easy enough to talk to, even if you didn't really know him. She could message him on Facebook when they got back to Earth, and maybe...well, who knew. It would be better than trying to manufacture anger every time she saw him.

"So...what did you do with the other two wishes?"

Chapter Text

The Birthday, Part 3

"Your wish has been granted."

Samuia appeared, wide-eyed, right in front of the dragonballs. "What--who--where am I?"

"I'll explain in a moment," Kale replied, "But you've been revived. You're no longer dead."

"But how--"

"What is your second wish?"

"My second wish?" Kale looked back up at the dragon, and then back at the group of Namekians who were milling about in reverence before the dragon.

"Yes. You have three in total."

"Oh my god, I--um--"

Samuia glanced up at the dragon and ran off to join the crowd of Namekians. She neither knew nor cared about what it was, but with something that threatening-looking it was best in her opinion to stay far away from it.

Kale'd gotten there with Goku's help, but had neglected to tell him to come back. What a damn oversight! "I wish Goku knew we needed a ride back," she said.

"HeyguysIheardyouneededaride!" Goku appeared, grinning, half a minute later.

Well, that took care of that. She still didn't know what else to wish for. But, Goku'd done her a favor, so...

"Listen," she said quickly, "I have another wish left, but I didn't know there'd be three of them. You can have it, if you want."

"A wish?" Goku asked. He paused, thought for a minute, and then snapped his fingers. "I've got it! Mr. Dragon!"

"Yes?"

"New boots! Size eight, please!"

Poof.

Goku looked down at his feet (in front of which, the new ones had appeared), and grinned, giving a near-silent, "Yay!"

"Your three wishes have been granted. Goodbye."

Kale turned to the elder Namekian, and gave a bow. "Thank you, sir, for allowing us to use these."

"You are welcome."


"I don't see how you didn't at least hear Goku's wish," Kale said.

"I was covering my earholes and cowering in fear," Samuia replied. "Now, where are we going?"

Kale looked up ahead. "We're going to see Cooler, of course."

"I don't know if the landlord will appreciate a random ship landing on the roof."

"They have a landing pad on top for people with the flying cars," Kale replied, "They're fine with it as long as you follow proper procedure."

As they approached, there was radio contact from the building. They answered, and provided their reason for visiting. A few seconds later they were allowed to begin landing.

Samuia was silent as they left the ship, and the elevator trip was equally as quiet. But once they got into the hallway where Cooler's apartment was, she got chattier.

"How has he been?"

"Pretty good," Kale replied, "He's going to be moving out of here, now he's a full-fledged surgeon."

"He always wanted to be a doctor," Samuia replied, "It's nice to know he finally gets to be one."

They reached the door, and Kale stepped forward to knock.

Cooler answered the door in his medical scrubs. "Kale, you're here sooner than...I..."

His eyes fell on his mother.

"Cooler?" she stepped forward. "You're--you've gotten so big. Look at you, and--and--"

Samuia hugged him, tightly, a gesture returned only a little awkwardly.

"I didn't think...I mean, I knew she was coming back with you, but it just...didn't feel real until now. Mother, how--how are you?"

"Well enough," she smiled up at him, "Can we come in?"

"Of course, of course," he replied quickly, "Come in."

"I've got a lot to take care of," Kale said, "Have fun tomorrow." She headed off. It was uncertain, at least to her, how well this would go over with Cold. But that wasn't her concern.


"Father, did you sleep well?"

"...no, of course I didn't. Why do you ask?" Cold was halfway through breakfast when he looked up.

"I realize you don't want much attention called to it," Frieza said, "But nevertheless--"

"You and your brother are competing furiously and you want to know who's going to win. I know how this goes."

Marron remained silent. This was not a fight she was accustomed to hearing, but it was certainly something to entertain while she waited for her coffee to cool down.

"Maybe," Frieza said quickly.

"Whatever you want to do," Cold shrugged, "Normally, I'd tell you to stop, but if you want to constantly climb over each other for no reason, that's your business. When will Cooler be coming by?"

"In an hour or so."

"I see."

"And he specifically requested that you remain sober."

"He had no reason to--"

Frieza glared.

"I at least need a glass to tide me over."

"You can have it."

After breakfast was over, a few giftboxes were brought out. One was a bottle of Arcosian wine (which Cold poured himself a glass of before he did anything else). The second was an HBO subscription with a note referencing not having to go over to Vegeta's to watch TV anymore, and the third was a notice about the availability of an apartment just down the hall.

"What is this?" Cold asked as he opened the envelope.

"Your own place. I want to keep an eye on you, but I'm reasonably certain you aren't going to do anything at this point."

"So you're...this is only two doors down." Cold glanced over some of the photographs of the apartment, and on sight of one wrinkled his nose. "Someone seems to have left their music video prop behind. It's hideous."

"What?" Marron asked, looking over. "Oh, the...that's a huge chair."

"Huge...and ugly." Cold shook his head. But I'm glad you at least thought of getting me a place where I don't have to worry about you two being up at all hours doing gods only know what."

And where he didn't have to listen to it. These two were like a couple of saiyans in heat...

"Is it furnished?"

"There's a bed and a few other things," Frieza said, "But I wanted to leave it to you, so you could make it your own."

"That's..." Cold gave a little half-smile. It was something, at least. It would be nice to not be watched constantly. "Thank you."

Knock knock knock knock knock

"Come on in!" Marron called. "That'll be Cooler."

The door opened, and Cooler walked in first.

But then Cold heard a set of delicate, slow steps.

"Who did you bring, Cooler, the monkey sl--" Cold turned to look towards the door, and the word died on his lips.

It was her. Blue skin, white gems. Her.

Shock, awe, even wonder crossed his face.

So this was why they'd wanted him sober.

"Samuia?" He got up and walked carefully over to her. "It...is you, isn't it?"

"Of course it is." Facing him here, now, she was uncertain. And still angry. But the boys were watching...

"I'm sorry," Cold said quickly, as if she would disappear if he didn't apologize fast enough, "I can't--I can't tell you how sorry I am. I never meant any of it, I was blind, I--"

She raised a hand to silence him. "I know."

"I can't--"

"I know. You can't apologize enough," she replied, "But that's not what's important here. You did a lot of damage, and it won't be undone in a day."

"Of course not."

"Are you willing to put in the work?"

"Yes." Without hesitation, Cold answered. "Whatever it takes."

Whatever it took. He would never take her for granted again.

And though perhaps it was an odd, almost bittersweet note to go on, he thought that it was the best birthday gift he'd ever gotten.


Kale paced several times in front of the door.

He wouldn't be too eager to hear her out, she was sure of it. But...

But she had to do something, she'd asked to come up here and the doorman would no doubt tell Ginyu that she was there and he'd show up at her place again if she didn't go through with this.

She took a deep breath and knocked at the door.

"Coming!"

Ginyu's voice was heard, and a few seconds later he opened the door. "...Kale?"

"If it's not a good time, I can come later," she said quickly.

"No, it's fine, but...I just wasn't expecting you. What did you need?"

"I was wondering if...maybe we could have a talk over coffee?"

Chapter Text

Species

"And we're back." Birdie took a deep breath. "Right now, we have Marron on line two, who's having a problem with her boyfriend. Hello, Marron. What's the issue?"

"Well," the voice said, "I've been living with my boyfriend for a while now. When I moved in, his father lived there, but he recently moved down the hall in the same building. The problem is...well...now that his father's gone, my boyfriend is initiating sex all over the house and it's a rare night when we're in our own room. I wouldn't say I'm vanilla or anything like that, because we're pretty open to different things. It's just, I think he's gotten a fetish for doing it in the kitchen."

"Have you brought this up to him?"

"Well, I don't know how to. He's enjoying himself so much I just...you know."

"This is probably just some attempt to 'reclaim' the area as being completely his," Birdie said, "The odds are good this will peter out soon, so I suggest being proactive--before he can propose a tryst in the kitchen, suggest the bedroom again. Maybe you can find some incentive that will entice him into it?"

"I have a few ways I could do that, I guess. Thanks."

Marron hung up.

"Sometimes we're afraid to bring things up," Birdie went on, "Especially when it comes to sex. But it's best to bring something up sooner rather than later, when it'll be more awkward. Alright, now, Tom, who's next?"

From the other side of the glass wall, the man replied, "We have a Cooler on line two, whose boyfriend is having trouble with an ex."

"Alright." Birdie tapped the button, "Hello, Cooler. Tell me about what's going on."

"Well," Cooler said, "We're not official or anything yet, but it seems like every other time or so we go out, his ex is somehow there too. He's--he dated a woman for a while, and she got obsessed with him. Since then she's been stalking him, and once or twice left notes about how he isn't gay, he's just fooling himself, come back to her--stuff like that. And I'm wondering if I should be doing anything to help him."

"Is he handling her interference pretty well?"

"When we're out, he doesn't hesitate to call up the bouncers--we go to a lot of clubs--or security or whatever, and he leaves. Apologizes to me for it, and all."

"It can be really difficult dating someone that has a stalker," Birdie said, "A lot of people would probably advise you to dump and run, but if your boyfriend is handling it well, you're in no danger--and the two of you are agreeing on how the situation's being handled, I don't think dumping him is the way to go. He probably doesn't want attention called to it, so unless he directly looks to you for extra help, I'd suggest letting him continue to handle it. Maybe treat him after he has to deal with her, but don't say anything much about it."

"I guess you're right," came the reply, "Thanks."

"It can be bad when you're dating someone who's being stalked. But if it's being handled well and you're in no danger, and you're both happy with how it's being dealt with, there's no reason not to continue dating that person. Alright, we have time for one more caller. Tom?"

"We have a Krillin, who's having trouble finding a girlfriend."

Another tap of the button. "Hello, Krillin. What's the trouble?"

"Well, it's not that I'm not trying to meet women," Krillin said, "Women tell me I'm cute all the time, but it seems like I can't get their attention. They tell me I'm a nice guy, but it doesn't seem like it's enough."

"You might have heard this before," Birdie said, "But if they don't like you the way you are, then they're not the ones for you. Just keep being you, and you'll meet a woman who values every bit of your niceness."

"Here's the thing, though...I'm short. Like, shorter than most women I would date."

"It's unfortunate, but all I can say is that your height won't matter to the right woman, as cliche as that sounds. Keep putting yourself out there, and you will find a woman. Maybe you could expand your horizons a bit? Take some classes, or sign up for a speed-dating evening, things like that. Even if you don't meet someone, you'll have had a nice time."

"I guess I could try that. Thanks."

"I hate bringing out things like that," Birdie said, "But the fact is, the right woman, or man for you will love you as you are, whether you're tall or short. It can take a while to meet the right one, but when you do, you'll know. That's all the time we have for today. See you again tomorrow on Afternoon Love, everyone, and remember--there's someone out there for everyone, and it doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks, as long as the two of you are happy. Good afternoon."

When Tom gave her the signal, Birdie removed her headset. The on-air light went out.

"Good day today, huh?" he said, "I kinda feel sorry for that last guy though. I got a short friend myself, it was hell on him until he found his girl."

"But he did find her," Birdie replied, "He'll find someone."

As the next show's host moved into the room to set up, she left with Tom.

"Are you going to walk home again?" he asked, "I'd be happy to drive you, you know."

"I'll be fine," Birdie replied, "It's a cool evening."

"It's not the weather I'm worried about."

"If anything, muggers'll run from me. I'll. Be. Fine. I was going to get dinner out anyway."

"You and your pizza places..."

Birdie simply collected her things and headed out of the radio station. The restaurant was about twelve blocks away, and from there, she'd catch a late bus back to her apartment.

There were stares and one comment about her green skin, but by now she was used to them. It wasn't worth explaining to people, if they were simply going to laugh.

She was beginning to think that she should take her own advice. But if they were alright with her skin, it'd be something else entirely about her tail.

Oh well. There'd be a right man at some point, right?

Three blocks down, she heard a scream from an alleyway, which she looked down.

"Get off me!" came the scream.

"I said, GIVE ME YOUR PURSE!"

Birdie wiped her mouth, looking with a grin at the man attempting to rip the woman's purse out of her hands.

Ah, she thought, Takeout.

Chapter Text

Possibilities

Though Cold had moved out, he made a habit of having breakfast with Frieza at least once a week. One afternoon about three weeks after he'd done so, he walked in to see...no Frieza.

"Oh, hi," Marron said. She had several newspapers on the table, and didn't look up, "He's in the study, talking to his cousin."

"That's rather early in the morning, " Cold said, after checking his watch.

"I wondered about that too. He said he'd be done pretty quick."

Cold shrugged and headed into the kitchen, and opened the fridge to grab the carton of eggs he'd bought a few days before.

"Careful of the sushi," Marron called out. "That's lunch."

"Whose lunch?"

"Frieza's."

"Oh, alright." It made no difference to Cold, and he went about getting the egg-frying pan and other little ingredients ready.

"How is she doing?" Marron asked, "Your--your wife."

"Well enough," he replied.

There was a nod. Both went back to their own business; Marron went to her papers, and Cold went to his eggs.

Frieza appeared as the other two were beginning to eat.

"Well?" Cold asked, "What did he want?"

"He was telling me that he'd be arriving soon," Frieza replied, "Within the next twenty-four hours, in fact."

"I wonder what he wants," Marron said, "To see how you're doing?"

"Something like that."

"Alright, keep your secrets."

Frieza laughed. "He's bringing some of my possessions, if you must know. And Ginyu's, from his locker."

"You still had those?"

Frieza shrugged. "They were put into storage, and no one in the PTO ever seems to throw anything away."

"I made it that way for a reason," Cold said.

"I know, I know. In any case, we should start preparing."

"We won't need catering, will we?" Marron asked, "They'll charge a lot for short notice."

"No, there won't be any need...though his wife is a saiyan, perhaps it would be good to order something in." Frieza shrugged it off at that. He could worry about that after work.

There was a knock at the door.

Marron went to get it, and gave a smile when she opened the door. "Dr. Briefs! To what do we owe the honor?"

"Oh, nothing," he said, "Frieza in here?"

"I am," came the voice from the table, "And I reiterate her question, and add this: what made you leave the lab this time of the day?"

"Just letting you know there's no need to come into work today," Dr. Briefs said, "There's been a bit of an...incident."

"Vegeta?"

"Carbon monoxide. A few people are sick and the whole building was evacuated."

"Well that's one less thing to worry about," Frieza said. "That still doesn't answer why you're here, though. Not that I don't enjoy visitors."

"Oh, I had a gift from Panchy for your father, too," Dr. Briefs said. "She got busy and forgot all about his birthday, and felt bad about it."

"Sweet woman," Marron said with a smile.

Dr. Briefs dug into his pocket and brought out a fob watch.

If Cold had had eyebrows, they'd have shot up. He was handed the watch, which he looked over carefully, almost suspiciously, before popping it open.

"It's a watch, not a book, father," Frieza said, "You don't need to study it."

"Of course not." Cold shook his head. "Thank you."

After glancing over the face of the watch a few moments more, he squinted slightly. "I need better light to adjust it."

Frieza watched, confused, as his father headed for the balcony door.

"So," Marron said, not noticing when Dr. Briefs followed Cold outside, "When do you think he'll arrive?"


Dr. Briefs shut the door behind him, and privately wished that the balcony was bigger as he lit up a cigarette.

"A fob watch?" Cold questioned, "She doesn't remember anything, does she?"

"No," Dr. Briefs replied, "You thought she was giving you her watch, did you?"

"The thought had crossed my mind," Cold replied, "Along with the possibility that you were giving it to me, to prevent her from ever recalling her previous memories."

"I wouldn't do that to my Panchy," Dr. Briefs replied, "She's happy the way she is, but..."

Here he shook his head.

"I remember the last time I saw the two of you," Cold replied, "Your wife still looks the same, but you've aged quite a bit. Not running around disrupting my work anymore, now are you?"

Dr. Briefs puffed on the cigarette for a minute, "It was fun while it lasted, watching you get angry every time she showed up. But hey. Times change."

"I see that." Cold paused momentarily before going on, "Do your daughters know?"

"No. And it's better that they don't, don't you think? The only tin cans I want to see are the ones I invent."

"A wise decision. That still doesn't explain the gift, though."

"You're alone, or close to it," Dr. Briefs said, "Far from home. My guess is, she knows that feeling, remembers it deep in somewhere...and doesn't want anyone to feel like she does."

"Likely as not."


"So....little Nippy."

"You've waited years to say that, haven't you?" Nippy glared up at Frieza, setting down the metal case he'd been carrying, and crossing his arms. "Grow up."

"I did, unlike you..." Frieza coughed. "Now, with the pleasantries out of the way...how have things been?"

"Not as well as I'd hoped," Nippy replied, "But better than I expected, if that makes any sense."

"Nippy! You ran out without me!"

The voice echoed behind him, and soon enough, she appeared--not too tall, but certainly taller than her husband.

"It's nice to meet you," Marron said, "What was your name?"

"Tsukiryuu," came the reply. She shook hands with both of them at Nippy's prompting, then asked, "Do you have anything to eat set out? I'm starving!"

"Oh, yes. In the kitchen."

"Thanks! I'll be back in a second!" she talked fast, and was gone even faster than that.

"Energetic, isn't she?" Frieza asked, "How do you stand it?"

"Somehow," Nippy laughed, "She's a gem, really."

"I thought saiyans were gruff, like Vegeta," Marron said, "She didn't seem very gruff, or short-tempered, or anything like that."

"You've known her for all of two minutes, how can you--but really, she's not very saiyan-like at all. Comes of being mostly raised by Tuffles, I suppose."

"So you married a homeless girl?"

"Hey, she had a home, and a life of her own...but I bet your father would raise hell about that. A woman of another race in his court, wearing a crown--"

"--I don't wear the crown!" Tsukiryuu called from the kitchen, "It doesn't sit right on people with hair."

"It wasn't meant for people with hair, love," Nippy called back, "We can have it refit, you know!"

"I don't really want to wear it anyway. ...where's the--oh, here it is!"

"My father would likely react better than you'd imagine," Frieza replied, "He's improved vastly since we came here, though there's still a lot to take care of. I'm not sure he'd be ready for any other shocks."

"He already knows," Nippy replied, "I spoke with him a few weeks ago."

"No shouting?"

"No shouting. Now, before I forget...I was already in contact with Ginyu, and he has the contents from his locker. Here's the things you requested." Nippy set the metal case on the living room table, and opened it.

There were only three things inside. A silver, jeweled cuff set with amethysts, a bottle of wine, and a scouter with a red lens.

Frieza gave a slight smile at the sight of the scouter, but reached for the cuff.

"Oh, it's beautiful!" Marron said, glancing at the cuff, "What is it for?"

"Traditions," he replied, "I wanted to be prepared, was all."

"But--"

"It'll be something pretty to keep in the jewelry box," Frieza said quickly. He looked back to Nippy. "Thank you for bringing them."

It was at about this point that Tsukiryuu wandered back in, plate absolutely dominated by the presence of an abomination of a sandwich with numerous ingredients and knife stuck in the top to hold it together. "Thanks for setting all that up. I was starving."

"You ate several times on the way here," Nippy said, "How are you still hungry?"

"I just am." She sat down with the sandwich and was about to start eating when her eyes fell on the jeweled cuff in Frieza's hands. Her eyes widened, virtually sparkling with excitement--and seeing that she was about to speak, knowing what it was most likely going to be about, he interrupted her.

"Huge sandwich you have there," he said quickly, "Why don't you eat that at the table? It looks like it'll fall apart at any moment."

"But I want to be around people," she answered. "And you've got a--"

"I know. Eat over there."

"You're just like Nippy," she said, moving over to the table, "I can't have any fun at all!"

"If by fun you mean finding crumbs in the chair for the rest of eternity, then no, you can't have fun." Nippy answered.

She went silent after that. Marron, after making herself something to eat, joined her at the table and started up some talk about how easy it was to keep Arcosians happy. Though watching their gesturing, Frieza wasn't entirely sure what kind of ''happy" they were talking about.

"So, you mean to go through with it?" Nippy asked Frieza quietly.

"I do."

"This quickly?"

He nodded. "That's why I asked for the scouter. It's...customary to get rid of old mementos, after all."

"And give them to family members. Are any of hers here?"

"Vegeta," Frieza replied simply. "He's here."

Nippy gave a smile. "You know...a lot of our people still don't believe you've changed."

"No?"

"Most think you're dead. Considering the shape you were in when you came back, it's not surprising."

"Don't remind me. I was holding in my own guts at that point...while trying to hold onto my lower half and a hand. Not the most pleasant of ways to return."

"How did you get back, anyway? I know that one of the Ginyu's ships was involved, but..."

"The monkey," Frieza replied, shaking his head. "That insane, goodhearted monkey is how I got back."

"How?"

"How?" Frieza shook his head. "Well...to start with, let me just remind you that I had murdered his best friend only a short while before, and been on the point of doing the same with his son. And yet...and yet, after a long fight, with the planet tearing itself apart due to one of my attacks, laying there broken, bleeding, and ready to die...he gave me another chance."

"That seems rather stupid to me," Nippy replied.

"The monkey is not known for his brains. Maybe it was the oxygen deprivation due to blood loss, but..."

"You listened to him."

"I wouldn't have given me another chance. But he did. I even asked him, 'Why? After what I've done in just the last day alone, why? It's too late for me to turn back.'"

Silence, but only for a moment.

"I'll never forget that conversation, as sappy as it may sound. 'It's never too late to turn your life around, and I'm willing to help you.' I gave some retort about the billions of deaths that I've caused, the suffering I've inflicted, and he replied with, 'And that's your weight. You might never be able to get out from under it, but you have to try.'"

"Such profound words, from such a simple man," Nippy laughed.

"He dragged me back to where the Ginyu Force's ships were, and hurled me into one before leaping into another. I changed course once I was safely away, and then...I was alone with nothing but my thoughts for what felt like an eternity. He gave me a chance when no one else would, when no one else believed I could be anything but what I was. He believed I could be something else, even after what I'd done, and it...it gave me a sense of hope that I hadn't felt in years. That's how my father found me when I was brought out of the pod and sent into surgery. He mistook that peace for the calmness of dying and was barking orders as I was being rushed to the operating table."

"Astonishing," Nippy said. He'd heard a rumor or two that this might be the case, but hearing it from Frieza was something else entirely.

"If he hadn't wanted to rush to Earth, things might have been different. That lavender-headed little twit wouldn't have injured him, and neither of us would be here."

"Bet you're glad he did that now."

"I am. Listen, why don't you go visit my father down the hall? Second one going down the left. I'll be back in a few minutes, I have to deliver this to Vegeta." Frieza picked up the scouter and headed for the door.

"Sure thing."


"What are you doing here?"

Vegeta was not the least bit pleased about having to shut off the gravity machine, and even less so to find that the cause of the interruption was Frieza.

"I won't be long," came the reply, "I have something that belongs to you."

Frieza lifted the scouter into view.

"That's not mine."

"It is now. It's not yours, but it belonged to someone who knew you, and you might want to check the recordings."

Vegeta grumbled and turned away the second that Frieza left. The scouter was an older model, one he could remember seeing a lot before he'd been taken from the planet as a child. He stuck it on the side of his head and tapped at the button to get through the clunky menu. There weren't many files, but there were enough.

He started with the first recording--audio only, and stood stone-still, listening. He hadn't heard that voice in years.

'That's right,' the voice said, 'Like that, Vegeta. Come on, you want to be strong like your aunt when you grow up, don't you?'

Chapter Text

Time

"They're here!"

"Honey, where are we going?" Panchy asked.

"Remember our bunker?" Dr. Briefs called out. "Come on, run a bit faster!"

"Well, yes, but--"

It was a barely-staying-up rush down the stairs that they made. Outside. Why had he had to leave it outside?! But on he ran, tugging his wife by the hand toward the treeline, while his poor cat barely hung on to his shoulder by its claws. Which one was it--ah! Yes! An unobtrusive little tree, that bore no fruit and had no flowers, and was overset by other, larger trees.

They were almost here. They were almost here.

Dr. Briefs ran right into the side of the tree, and then began smacking his hand against it in several different places.

"I thought we were going to the bunker," came the quiet reply.

"We are!" he replied hurriedly. "Come on, come on..."

A few more smacks, and--ah, there it was!

"Dear--"

Dr. Briefs held his hand on that particular spot of the tree's trunk, and reached into his pocket, drawing out what looked to her to be nothing more than a large antique key in the form of a sprouting seed.

To her utter shock, the key went into the trunk of the tree, turned...

...and Dr. Briefs pulled open a door. Beyond it, there was a room, an odd-looking mechanical pillar, and any number of flashing lights.

"This is the bunker?" she asked. Something told her it was a safe place, but she hesitated, looking at Dr. Briefs.

"It is," he replied, "Get in, go. And take this with you."

Dr. Briefs handed her a pocket watch, and gave her a little smile. "Go on, Panchy."

She took the pocket watch, and looked at it, utterly confused as she stepped into the room. It felt familiar, and yet--

--there was a scream, and the scent of burning flesh followed soon by that of coppery blood. The cat, and then Dr. Briefs fell back, the latter crying out in pain--but before Panchy could so much as shout for him, he kicked the door shut, barely giving the little dark feline time to shoot into the doorway.

Mow

Screams. Laughter.

Death.

Panchy slumped against the door, as a single tear turned into many and crying turned to horrid sobbing. The watch in her hands was turned over and over as she clung to the thing that he had seen so important to give to her.

"Why?" she asked, "Why couldn't you move faster? Why couldn't you come with me?"

And what about Bulma? What about Trunks? What if they were gone, too?

It seemed like an eternity that she spent crying. At some point, the cat had curled up next to her.

It had to be dark outside now, and she could hear nothing from the other side of the door. There was no knowing if those two demon-children were even still out there, but there was no sense in taking a chance.

But without him, what...

Half-hiccuping, and near-exhausted from the extended weeping, Panchy looked down at the watch. It was for lack of desire to look at anything else in the room to distract herself--what did any of it matter to her? Odd, circular designs decorated the back of the watch; it looked like an antique, some heirloom that her husband might've gotten from his family.

It was perfectly polished. Perfectly made.

She smiled. Dr. Briefs had kept it shiny, and clean.

Her fingers traced shakily over the edges, the border, that indicated the two separate halves, and strayed finally to the button that would open it.

What time was it?

Pop

A glare brighter than any light she'd ever seen shined out of the watch, and Panchy's eyes widened.

--no, no, we can't leave my plants behind!

They're only plants! They're nothing!

No.

They're life like any other you hold dear!

NO!

Gallifrey FALLS!

They're tearing themselves apart, there's no winning. They'll die, all of them!

She could see it now, the fires, the dead, the smoke, rising over piles of ash, the husks of metal and the technological graveyards of dead machines giving off a sickening scent as flames burned around them.

Where are you going? We need every man and woman we can get!

She ran and she ran and she ran.

Coward!

Coward. No. No, she wasn't, she...

I'm just so afraid...

And then, Dr. Briefs showed up, and been at her side for so long. She spent so much time trying to help the universe, to make up for running away from the War, to make up for being a coward.

And he, he had allayed so many of her fears.

You're not a coward at all. It's not cowardly to run from death. It's not cowardly to pass up lining up to die.

Gentle, good man...

A daughter? It wouldn't be safe to have her here.

It was all over in the blink of an eye, but it felt like an eternity to Panchy.

Sorrow was replaced with rage. Anguish gave way to determination.

It was time to do some building.

It was time to give those children what they deserved.


Bulma was crying. Trunks, unknowingly, was doing a fantastic imitation of his father by standing quietly by with his arms crossed, looking at the box they had surrounded.

There was nothing left of him.

Panchy stood behind the two of them, not looking at the box at all.

Inside of it were some of Dr. Briefs' possessions--a spare pair of glasses, his favorite wrench, and a pack of his favorite cigarettes. His wedding ring had been added just a few minutes ago; he never wore it while working, but always kept it safe.

"Are you sure it's alright for me to go to the past now?" Trunks asked. "Considering...even if it only turns out I was gone a few seconds, I just--"

"No," Bulma said, "It's alright. You need to go. We wouldn't want them to have to go through this as well, now would we?"

"No," Panchy answered. "There's no need to worry. We'll be fine."

"Well..." Trunks hesitated, but shook his head. "If you're sure."

"We are."

Panchy glanced aside, but said nothing.

"I think I'll set up outside the city," Trunks replied, "They're still in West City, and I don't want to attract any attention."

He gave them both a nervous smile, and then turned to leave.


Trunks had given a careful look around the wooded area that he'd chosen. They were clear on the other side of the city, or so the radio station had last said.

Either way, best not to take too much time.

He climbed into the machine and started it up. The readings were all good, everything looked fine...

Alright.

Time to get to the past. Time to fix this, for them, at least. It would have been nice to have things changed here, as well, but...

"So, are you flying away?"

Trunks froze in place.

He'd only been idle for a few seconds at the most.

"Whatever this is, I mean, it's probably to help you get somewhere."

Seventeen was looking at him from the outside, grinning through the glass dome of the time machine.

"It's awfully tacky," came Eighteen's voice.

"It's a ship, it's not meant to look fashionable," Seventeen retorted, raising his hand and forming a ki beam. "Look, kid, you get out, or I'll blast it and you to pieces."

"You're going to do that anyway," Trunks replied.

"No. I'm not. I promise."

"Your word isn't worth the air it takes to say," Eighteen added, "Really, any idiot could come up with a better way to get him out of there."

"Well, then, you try."

"Get out," Eighteen said, "I'll make a deal with you."

Carefully, and keeping his eyes on both of them, Trunks emerged.

"If you can defend it for ten minutes," Eighteen said, "We'll leave. How about that?"

"How do I know you'll keep your word?"

"You don't," Seventeen added.

The time machine floated delicately to the ground without its pilot.

"You fight him," Eighteen said, "It was your idea."

"That's not--"

"It was YOUR idea."

"Fine. You keep the time, then." Seventeen rolled his eyes and turned back, launching himself at Trunks, who was able to block the first punch and traded one of his own for it.

Nothing. Seventeen essentially shrugged it off; Trunks, noting this, swung at him again.

There was a laugh.

"You're slow," Seventeen said, "D'you think that's going to help you?"

Trunks didn't answer. He aimed several more ki blasts, but they were dodged.

A crashing strike on the side of his head sent Trunks' ears ringing.

For a moment or two, he was bleary-eyed.

Seventeen laughed.

"It's not funny," Trunks replied, growling.

"Nine minutes to go," said Eighteen.

Kick, punch, dodge, ki blasts one, two, three, four--

--another kick, this time to Trunks' gut. He spit blood.

"Eight."

She'd just said nine, how could it already have been another minute?

"You managed to last two minutes," Seventeen said, "That's pretty good for a weakling like you."

"Ugh, Seventeen, just finish him off. I want this abomination blown up already!"

"Fine." The dark haired young man turned his gleefully malicious gaze back to Trunks. "Guess I'll have to actually take this seriously, then. Women, am I right?"

There was a pause, and Eighteen laughed.

"How would he know? He's never dated one."

"Aww, poor baby..."

Trunks swung, thinking to take advantage of Seventeen's being distracted, but his fist was caught mid-strike.

"Thought you'd pull a fast one on me, huh? How dumb do you think I am?"

Trunks tried to tug his hand back, to no avail.

Seventeen smirked, and gave Trunks a quick punch in the gut. Then another. And another, and another...

He coughed, hacking up blood again, and again.

"Six minutes. Seventeen, just end it already!"

"Alright, fine, but take care of the ship if you want it gone so badly."

"With pleasure." Eighteen smirked, and sent a ki blast directly at the time machine--it exploded--and a second later nothing remained of it but the shell, some glass, and melted metal that steamed furiously.

"Hold it right there."

Seventeen dropped Trunks and turned, along with Eighteen, to see the source of the voice.

"Who the hell are you?"

"Me?" the owner of the feminine voice gave a grin and stepped out of the shadows. Her face was stony, and her gaze dark; one hand was inside a purse hanging on one arm.

"Oh, it's a woman."

"Grandma, what--"

Trunks, barely able to focus enough to see that the woman was Panchy, could hardly believe what he was seeing.

"Your grandmother? I'd hate to let her see you die," Seventeen said, "I'm feeling nice today. Oh, wait, I remember you. You were with that idiot over at Capsule Corp, the one I shot in the back. Well, then, I'm doing a double favor!"

He launched at Panchy, who raised her arm, pointed something at him--

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Seventeen fell to the ground, frozen with his fist outstretched in front of him. "I...I can't...I can't move!"

"The hell did you do to him?" Eighteen yelled. She charged, only to have Panchy do exactly the same thing to her.

"I just disabled some of your internal technology, that's all," came the slow, evil, and yet amused reply. She turned her sights on Seventeen, and the thin device in her hands was pointed back at him.

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Seventeen screamed, trying desperately to move, to do something, anything--but to no avail.

"You think we had no idea what your plans looked like?" she asked, kicking him onto his back and planting her high-heeled shoe squarely on the side of his head, with the heel on his cheek. "I've seen your kind before. You're just a primitive copy, still vulnerable to...sonic...technology."

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Another scream.

"Stop it!" Eighteen yelled.

Panchy ignored her. "Looks like he's out cold."

"What did you do to him?!"

"The same thing I'm about to do to you." Panchy smirked.

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Eighteen lasted a little bit longer than Seventeen, but after several more blasts from the device, she too was out cold.

"Now," Panchy said absently, "This was not supposed to wound, or kill, exactly, but one can pardon me for defending my grandson, I think."

And after all--who would stop her?

There was a hand at her elbow.

Oh. Right.

Trunks.

"Grandma, I think...I think....that's enough. What did you do to them?"

"I paralyzed them," Panchy said, "And gave them a dose of what they had dished out. They won't be getting up until I decide that they can get up."

"Well it's not going to fix the time machine," Trunks sighed, "All that work, all of mom and grandpa's effort, wasted!"

"I wouldn't say wasted, exactly," Panchy said. "Come on, I have a solution. And move quick."

"But what about them?"

"As I said, they don't move until I allow them to."

Trunks followed her, wordlessly, to the treeline.

Vworp...Vworp...Vworp...


"Hey! Down here!"

Krillin, Goku, Gohan, and Piccolo landed near Tien and Yamcha.

"Bulma?" Krillin queried, on noticing the blue-haired woman. "What are you doing here? And with your baby!"

"You think I'm going to miss seeing this?"

"Well--it's just--Bulma, you could die--"

"Relax, don't get your gi in a knot," she replied, "Is it a crime to show up for moral support?"

"It should be in this case," Tien said, "But you've got a way of getting out when necessary. It's your business."

"What is whose business?"

Cooler's voice rang out from above and a few seconds later, he (carrying what looked like a messenger bag) and Cold landed, side by side.

"I see we're in time," Cold said.

"Right..." Goku said, "Where's Frieza? Shouldn't he be here too?"

"He's--" Cooler started, but was interrupted when Cold's hand shot out to cover his mouth.

"Sick," Cold said quickly.

"What, so the mighty Frieza is going to miss the chance to beat someone down just because he has the sniffles?" Piccolo said.

"If you must know, he's in the hospital," Cold replied curtly.

"Oh, for what?" Goku asked.

"We're not sure yet."

"Right..." Cooler stepped away. "So, I guess that's them up there?"

He pointed at two small figures that moved from above and jetted into the city.

"...yup." Krillin said.

"Well...here we go."

Chapter Text

Not for the Tokophobic

"Alright, Frieza, now, you're going to have to breathe like we told you..." The Arcosian doctor leaned over the tub, and glanced across the room at the healing pod--prepped and ready to go, at his instruction.

With the Cold family, he had learned never to discount the possibility of needing one.

Frieza was trying--he really was, but keeping his breathing steady was rapidly becoming the least of his worries. He was on his knees in that damned tub full of water, head resting miserably on his arms that were folded on its edge.

Maron was in the tub with him, and was trying to offer whatever encouragement she could while looking everywhere but at his erection. Frieza had told her that it was natural; he'd said that the majority of Arcosians got them during egg-birthing, something about blood flow and it being a good sign, but it was still awkward.

Ginyu was seated on a stool close by, and was leaning awkwardly to give the doctor more space. Rather nervously (and with his eyes averted) he offered his hand to Frieza, who took it.

"Maron," Frieza said weakly, "The next time a mess is made, don't try to make jokes about where it goes."

"I won't," she replied as she rubbed his shoulders, "You're doing really well."

He took a deep, wavering breath, then gestured to Maron who turned in the water, sitting with her back to another side of the tub and spreading her legs so he could comfortably lean back against her. Ginyu's hand was squeezed and his fingers began to turn a darker shade of purple.

The doctor gave Maron a small hand towel, which she put over Frieza's lap.

"I'm still worried about the size of the egg, even considering it's soft-shelled," the doctor said, "If you want to have a cesarean--"

"No," Frieza replied with an edge in his voice, "I am doing this myself. I've been cut in half before, so I think I can manage this."

"But," Maron said, "Remember what he said about how narrow your hips are..."

"I am doing this myself!" It hurt, but as it had started moving the pain had lessened. This would be fine.

"I do not advise that," the doctor replied, "This is a large egg."

"I AM DOING IT MYSELF!"

"My lord, please," Ginyu said, "Deep breathing. In, and out, in and--"

"I know how to breathe, Ginyu!" Frieza gasped.

"I can see the tip of the egg emerging," the doctor said. "Keep going, you're doing a good job."

Half an hour passed. The egg was making little progress, and Maron kept giving the doctor nervous glances. He kept gesturing back for her to continue comforting Frieza.

Another half hour. The doctor was noting that the egg had barely moved, and glanced at the vitals monitor.

The more Frieza pushed, the less progress he felt the egg was making. After several more, he took a deep breath. "I don't...I don't think it's moving."

"Let's be sure," the doctor said, leaning down over the tub. "Give me three more pushes."

His request was granted.

"No," came the confirmation, "It's not. I suspected your hips wouldn't be able to--"

"I can," Frieza said shakily, "I am perfect capable of getting it out!"

Ginyu gave a yelp; there was a crunch a second later.

Several more pushes were suggested, and tried, with the same result. The egg was well and truly stuck.

"There's no shame in a cesarean, your health and the baby's is what matters," Maron said gently.

Two more pushes.

Nothing.

"Frieza," said the doctor seriously.

"Fine," came the miserable reply. "Just...just get it..."

Deep, slow breath.

I can do this, Frieza thought.


I can do this, Goku thought.

He was breathing heavily. The pain in his chest was starting up, and all he could think was--no, not now. Not now. He could do this, if his heart would just...

Nineteen was still staring down at him.

"It's not the drain," Gohan said, "It's his heart!"

"What, the heart virus that guy from the future told us about?"

"Didn't he already take the cure for that?" Cold asked.

"I was sure he had," Cooler added.

Goku took a deep breath and a burst of pain radiated around his chest; each successive breath only made it worse.

He dropped to one knee.

Come on, he thought, Just a little longer. Give me time, I can take the medicine in a little bit, I just need TIME!

Silence.

"I...I can't catch my breath..." Goku said under his breath as he struggled to stand back up.

Nineteen landed, and advanced.

Krillin whipped out the bag of senzu beans, and leapt forward to throw one.

"Thanks," Goku said weakly. He ate the bean, but the pain in his chest didn't lessen one iota. It didn't help. It didn't help at all.

Nineteen flew forward and gave him a kick to the face, which sent him skidding along the ground.

More deep breathing. More pain.

Goku blinked, and Nineteen was sitting on top of him; there was screaming as the pain continued. To his horror he realized that he was the one screaming.

Nineteen grabbed him by the throat, and began draining his energy.

And no matter how hard Goku tried, he couldn't prise those white fingers off his neck. His left hand gripped uselessly, and his right was weakening as well.

He blinked.

Suddenly, the hand was gone and Vegeta was standing over him.

He was kicked in the side, and--Cooler caught him.

There was some talking that he couldn't hear.

Cooler took him, and spoke to Yamcha.

What...?

He was being flown off a minute later, held by Cooler, and followed by Yamcha.

That was the last thing he saw before he blacked out.


"...where the hell am I?"

Frieza glanced around. The void was...well, it was a void.

He could remember being placed on an operating table, a scalpel...Ginyu still holding his hand...the doctor calling for blood...

But after that...

"Am I...dying?"

"I think so."

The voice echoed behind him and Frieza turned to see--Goku!

"Monkey, what are you even--?"

"I think that heart virus is getting me," came the reply, "I...think I blacked out...what got you?"

Frieza didn't answer.

"Well...whatever it is, look at it this way--we're going to the afterlife together!"


"NO!"

Frieza woke feeling weak everywhere; the pain, however, was gone, and he was looking through water and glass.

The healing tank. He was in the healing tank.

The first to notice was Maron, who seemed to have been sitting on the outside of the tank while leaning against it. She shouted for the doctor, who came running back in.

"Good to see you conscious," came the doctor's voice.

Frieza touched his abdomen.

"The egg is fine. We had to break your pelvis to get it out because it got stuck."

Maron touched the glass and gave a weak smile. "We weren't sure you'd make it. You were losing a lot of blood."

"The veins in your uterus were particularly engorged and we had to go through one to get the egg out. Thankfully, your uterus contracted and we were able to get you into the tank in time."

Frieza touched his abdomen again and gestured as if he were holding a baby. Rising above everything--weakness, waning pressure, and utter fatigue--was the desire to hold his egg. He knew he couldn't, at least not right now (and how maddening that was!), but he wanted at least to see it.

"Ginyu," the doctor said, "Wheel the incubation box over here."

It took a minute, but the incubator-on-wheels appeared, pushed slowly and carefully by Ginyu.

It looked like a tiny spaceship; though what interested him was not the glass dome, but the beautiful, perfect scarlet egg sitting inside it.

Weakly, he smiled.

Chapter Text

Many Roads

It took too long for his taste, but Frieza was finally allowed out of the tank and into a hospital bed.

"Give me my egg," he demanded, turning to Ginyu.

The egg was very carefully handed over, and very carefully, Frieza cradled it to his chest. The biogem had been warming during the pregnancy, and finally, he could put it to use.

"How long will it be before it hatches?" Maron asked.

"Four to five months," the doctor said, "It depends."

"How will it get out?"

"An egg spike. All Arcosian babies have an egg spike on top of their heads in the same color as their biogem. It'll help them get out, and then once they are, it falls off."

"Oh, I see. And there's no way to...ultrasound the egg, or anything like that?"

"No," the doctor chuckled, "Although it is worth noting that egg color indicates what their biogem color will be."

"So it'll have little red ones..." she gave a smile, then turned to Frieza. "So...how does it feel, being a mother?"

"I could ask you the same thing."

"Well--" she stammered, "It's not--I'm thrilled, it's just, you're the one who pushed it out! I wouldn't call myself its mother. Is 'it' even okay to say?"

"Calm down," Frieza replied calmly, "Maron, it's alright."

"But--"

"Calm down."

"I'm just worried," Maron said quietly, "That I'll get something wrong."

"That's what I'm here for," chimed in the doctor, "I have some things for you to read over. But to put it simply, it's nearly impossible to mistreat the egg, as long as you pay attention to my directions."

He left briefly, presumably to get the information for her.

"What's wrong?" Frieza asked.

"I don't know what I am," Maron replied, "I'm not the mother. You're the one who carried it and pushed it out. And I wouldn't say I'm the father, either..."

"In a technical sense, you are the father."

"Excuse me?"

Frieza, still hopped up on a mixture of oxytocin and painkillers, was grinning like a child on Christmas. "Given that Arcosians don't especially care very much about the whole gender business, and the fact that most of us express as male...'mother' and 'father' are medical terms."

"Medical terms...?"

"Or legal...take your pick."

"How so?"

"The 'mother' is the one who gave birth. The father is the one who contributed the other half of the DNA." He said it very matter-of-factly.

"But I didn't. You did."

"You might as well have, considering."

"But who's mama, and who's papa, when it's born?" Maron asked.

"Realistically, it will call you mama, and me, papa."

"But it's the opposite on the birth certificate?"

"Unless you want it otherwise." He couldn't see why she would, unless it was regarding her femininity.

"Well, no," she laughed nervously. "I'm just--I...I'm terrified of doing something wrong. I wasn't prepared for this."

"And what do you call the last five months?"

"...very, very anxious practice," Maron said. "I just wish it was easier to think, do we have a girl, or do we have a boy?"

"That's for it to decide." He would've said 'them', but that just sounded...awkward. 'Them' was for the Arcosians like his cousin Nippy who preferred no gender at all. Debate had gone on for hundreds of years for a better way to refer to children who had not yet chosen their gender, but as of yet, there was nothing.

The doctor returned with a few pamphlets and one large book marked How To Care For Your Egg and What To Do When It Hatches which he handed to Maron. "Here," he said, "Read all of these, thoroughly."

She nodded, and then looked curiously at the last bit of paper he was holding.

"My lord," said the doctor, "We were on the point of being done with the birth certificate when we realized we hadn't gotten its name from you."

Frieza looked, a little wearily, at Maron.

"We thought of everything but that," she replied, "Um...let's see..."

"I don't need a name like mine, but I would at least like something similar to it." Frieza said.

"Alright. So...Frieza...Frie...za."

"You could put in something chestnut related?" He chuckled at the thought; he was sure her parents would lose what little was left of their minds at that.

"Well, the word for that is kuri..." she paused, thinking. Kuri...Frie...za..."

Frieza looked up the moment she did. They had the same thought at the same time.

"Kuriza."


Vworp...vworp...vworp...

A tree appeared, hovering in midair.

Dr. Gero smirked. Perfect--just the opening he needed. While everyone looked up at it, he took the few seconds of attention that gave him, and bolted away.

Cold growled, he had been the last to look up. But on sight of the tree, he paled. "As if we don't have enough trouble!"

"What, you know what that is?" Krillin asked, "Because it--what the HELL?"

A door opened from the side of the tree.

Trunks' head popped out. "Sorry about that, guys! I was trying to come back a little sooner, but--"

"But what?"

"Who ran off just now?"

"The android!" Vegeta shouted. "Who else would it be?"

"That wasn't the android," Trunks said. He was leaning out the side of the tree and holding onto the other side of the doorway.

"Yes it was," Cold said, "Brain case? Exposed wiring? Who educated you, you--"

"And what is he doing here?"

"What the hell do you think I'm doing, boy? Goku's out of commission, and so is Frieza, and my other--"

"We don't have time for this," Piccolo said, "Trunks, you can fill us in while we look for Gero's lab."

"You don't need to look for it, though," Bulma chimed in, "I know where it is."

"Why didn't you say so before?"

"Nobody asked me," she said. "It'll be outside North City--"

As Bulma talked, Cold looked somewhat nervously back up at the tree.

Was she there as well?

It looked like it was just the boy.

A minute or so later, Bulma, still holding the baby Trunks, left with Gohan and Yajirobe.

The tree followed the others at a slight distance.

"You have a lot of explaining to do," Piccolo said to Trunks, "What happened to your time machine?"

"The other androids," Trunks replied with a sigh. "It's...a long story."

"Right, and we have to find the lab," Krillin added. "What is that thing, anyway? It looks like a tree but you just popped your head out of it like it was a--"

"It's a TARDIS," Cold said dryly. He was flying up next to Krillin, well away from that tree--it made him feel uneasy. That woman was probably watching him from in there, no way was that thing flying on its own. "A time machine that can disguise itself."

"How do you--no, I'm not even going to ask."

They arrived at North City a few minutes later.

"Alright. I know this isn't going to be a popular thought, but..." Piccolo glanced around. "We're going to have to split up."

Krillin looked nervous, but said nothing.

"The faster we find the lab, the faster we can get rid of the androids," Trunks added. "Good idea. Look--I'm going to try and corral my dad back this way. Wish me luck."

"Understatement of the year," Tien muttered. He watched as Trunks left; the tree followed--and shimmering, shifted from a tree and into a boxy plane with a large door on the side.

Well if that wasn't the weirdest thing he'd seen in a while...


"Alright, Birdie, make a wish."

Her father gave her a little smile as he handed her the cupcake from the tray of a dozen. "I know you didn't want a fuss made, but it's your birthday. We had to do something for you."

Birdie gave a little laugh as she looked at the green-frosted thing with a pale green candle. There were one or two of her coworkers there, and...

"See, it matches you," said TJ, "Wombat figured it would be a great idea."

"That's not your name," Birdie added, "Why--?"

"Just make a wish, and blow out the candle."

She looked down at the teeny little flame.

Well...it had been rather boring lately...

I wish I'd get some adventure in my life, she thought, and blew out the candle.

Chapter Text

Gecko

"Chi-Chi, what's his oxygen looking like?"

"It's steady. Hasn't changed since I looked a little bit ago."

"That's not good, but...not bad, either. I'm glad I brought that set of medical capsules with me," Cooler said, "The concentrator should be doing more, but at least it's not getting any worse."

He sighed.

"What do we do, then?"

"You took what I gave you, right?"

"Right," Chi-Chi said. "If we can keep him like this, he should be fine."

"Dad, how are you doing?" Cooler looked over his shoulder. "The Senzu bean worked, right?"

"Right. Doesn't hurt at all anymore."

Cooler glanced back at the vitals monitor. "Where are the others?"

"Vegeta...I have no idea. After the debacle with the female android--"

"In which she shattered your kneecap."

"--where she broke his arms, well, Piccolo rushed off to do...something, Vegeta presumably went off to train, and here we are."

"Look, we need to hurry," Krillin spoke up, "They could be here soon."

"Right," Gohan said, "Alright, Cooler, you keep the concentrator and all that steady. Trunks and me'll carry my dad."

"I still say it's a strategically terrible decision," Cold cut in, "They'll have to know that's where he'll go. If I were them, it would be the second place I'd look."

"But this is the first place they'll look," Trunks said, "And he's in no shape to fight."

"I suppose you're right."

Once Goku was settled, Cold settled in the corner of the vehicle.

"If you think it's a bad idea, why are you going with us?" Chi-Chi asked.

"Because you'll need all the help you can get if they do show up."


"...so that's the story."

"So if Cell gets what he's after, he's going to get even stronger?"

"I'm not entirely sure on that," Piccolo replied, "But one thing's for certain--whatever his intent, we can't let him near the androids. If they team up, we won't stand a chance."

"You all, maybe," Vegeta said, "But I am going back to training. I'm going to find a level beyond super saiyan, and--"

"Mmhmm, sure," Tien answered, "Like what?"

"Are you mocking me?"

"What if I am?"

Vegeta growled, and took off.

"Well that happened," Trunks sighed, "But here's another thought. If that Cell's from the future...there's probably one here as well."

"You blew the lab apart," Tien replied, "If there was anything there, I think it's gone."

"Well, he was a mad scientist," Krillin said, "D'you think maybe he might've had a basement?"

"Shit."

"Alright, here's what we're going to do," Piccolo said, "Trunks, Krillin, you two go back to the lab. Look around, find Cell if he's there, and get rid of him."

"And we'll go after the big one," Tien added.

"Right, good idea."

Trunks and Krillin took off a second later.


"Pew, pew..."

"If you ever tell anyone I did that--" Krillin started.

"Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me. Oh, look--over there." Trunks headed for the ladder.

"We can't climb down it, though."

Trunks gave a slight roll of his eyes, and jumped down the hole; he was followed a second later. Ahead, there was another set of double doors, which he opened.

"I'm guessing that's Cell," Krillin pointed at the huge cylindrical tank just up ahead.

They moved closer. Inside of the tank was a tiny, almost nondescript fetuslike thing.

"Most likely." Trunks glanced around; his eyes were caught by some papers on the table nearby. "Wait, Krillin, come here, look at this. These are...these are the schematics for the androids! We could probably find a way to turn them off with these!"

"That's a load off my shoulders, then," Krillin lied, "But how do you--"

"Well, I might not know what to make of them, but you know my mother certainly can," Trunks replied, "We could probably find a way to shut them down with them. Hrm, and there's their real names and everything, too."

His mind briefly strayed to his grandmother. The...thing...she had used before had worked quite well on Seventeen and Eighteen in the future, but she'd said it wouldn't work here.

He sincerely doubted the truth of that statement, but she'd offered no further answers when he'd asked more questions.

"Hey, what're these?" Krillin pointed to an almost balled-up set of blueprints near the edge of the desk. "I swear to god, if it's another android..."

"I highly doubt--"

As Krillin unballed the papers, Trunks pulled the top piece closer. "Oh, shit..."

"Please tell me you don't mean what i think you mean!"

"Shit!" Trunks cursed again, "If dad wasn't mad at me before, well, this'll clinch it."

"What, is it another one?" Krillin looked over the second page of the new blueprints.

"Yes," Trunks groaned, "It is. I think...I think she's a counterpart to Cell."

"...counterpart? She? That sounds even less good."

"The project was apparently a failure," Trunks said as he went on reading, "The subject--she--escaped after some sort of a fight."

"...she?"

Trunks grabbed the third wrinkled sheet of paper and read quickly over it, murmuring a bit. "Regeneration, tail..."

"The what?!"

"...look, that's not important. It doesn't look like she's got the same intent as Cell or the androids have, though; the notes say that she went home after escaping him."

"Does it list her name?"

"Does it matter?"

"I think it might. It might be a good idea to warn her, considering."

"Right. Let's see...Birdie...Hawkins."

"I know that name from somewhere," Krillin paused to think, and then snapped his fingers. "I remember now, she's a talk-show radio host over in Nicky Town!"

"That's..." Trunks tried to remember where Nicky Town was, and shook his head. "We'll take the androids' blueprints over to mother and then go check on her."

"What about Cell?"

"Judging from the notes here, I don't think he even knows she exists. As long as he doesn't find her, we shouldn't have any issues."

Chapter Text

Preying On The Air

The Scream Room was a little room near the front of the studio.

Birdie's father had put it there for the use of the employees--if they were having a bad day before they came into work they could use the Scream Room and, well, scream it out. Or, if they preferred, they could cry, or take a bit to calm down--the room was completely soundproofed, and thus was a quiet oasis in the midst of busy chaos.

She, though, tended to use it for meditation. Despite a few years of working on the radio, she still tended toward stage fright.

After the tiny birthday party, she had gone out for lunch with her father and driven him to the airport--there was some sponsor deal or the other that he wanted to discuss with someone, and he wouldn't give any more details on it.

Then she'd come back and made a beeline for the Scream Room.

She had one hour, and then it would be back to the least interesting job in the universe. Most of the advice she gave, she thought, was common sense, and yet people still wanted to call to have someone else tell them it was okay to do?

"People need to have more self-confidence," she murmured.

But she shut the door, locked it, and sat down with her earbuds in and iPod on, tuned to her Nature Sounds playlist.

Lotus position.

Calm...relaxing...

A sea of cricket noises, the sound of rain on the roof, cicadas in summer, and waves on the beach.

Perfect.

She walked out and dropped the key into a drawer in the receptionist's desk, and glanced around for him.

"Jim?"

No answer.

"Huh. Must've gone to the restroom." She wrote her name on the sign-in sheet, and headed down the hallway.

No one was in the hallway.

It was shrugged off. It was a busy time of day, sure, but everyone was probably still in their offices or radio booths or whatever.

The on-air light was on, just outside the booth.

"Guys, come on..." Birdie groaned and looked at her watch. It was a minute or two until her show was due to start and they were still in there!

But the second she thought that, the light flickered off.

She opened the door, snapping her fingers. "Come on guys! You're running into my...time..."

There were clothes on the floor, but no TJ or Wombat. The on-air light flickered again, and she rushed for the switch to cut it off. "Guys, this isn't funny, you aren't supposed to be naked in the studio--"

She looked around, and then into the producer's booth.

Something was standing there with its back to her. Green skin, black spots, and some weird orange thing on the back of its head.

"What the--"

Its head jerked back to look at her; nearly a 180 degree turn.

Birdie stumbled back, heart suddenly hammering away in her chest--it took her a long second to process, but she arrived swiftly after that to one conclusion: Run!

She bolted out the door. Behind her, there was a sound of shattering glass, a thump, and the sound of various pictures on the wall falling to the ground.

Heart pounding in throat--lungs on fire--an open booth door!

She rushed into the dark room, shut the door, and crawled under the window in the wall to avoid being seen.

It came by a moment later, and stopped just behind the wall.

Birdie put her hands over her mouth, and tried to breathe quietly. It would leave.

It was going to leave.

She just had to wait it out.

It touched, and dragged its nails down, the window's glass.

Birdie cringed, and her tail twitched.

Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek

There were footsteps a second later; they sounded like they were heading down the hallway. Maybe the glass had been its way of trying to drive her out? Maybe it thought that the lack of response meant she wasn't there.

She relaxed.

Good. Good.

It was gone.

Deep breathing.

She started to stand up.

Crash

Glass shattered all around. She screamed, and put her arms over her head to shield herself.

It moved through the window, its tail coiled about her wrist and flung her toward the desk in the same motion and with the same momentum.

She didn't even have a chance to breathe or react to the bursts of pain in her back before it was over her. Both wrists were pinned to the desk on either side of her head.

It stared with those searching, cat-like eyes; its tail's point appeared over its shoulder, but came no closer.

So this was it, then.

Trembling, Birdie spoke. "Go ahead."

Silence.

"I know what that tail can do. Go ahead. Kill me. Just make it quick."

Finally, it spoke. The voice was raspy, and clouded with an air of feral lust.

"Why would I kill the most beautiful creature on two legs?"

Chapter Text

Dancing Mad

Goku's condition was finally stable enough that Cooler could say he was improving.

It was odd, to be working so hard to save someone he'd once been so determined to kill. But there Goku was, and here he was.

It was easy enough to detach from the poor sods at the hospital who had broken limbs, or who needed blood, or any number of things. It wasn't easy detaching from this case.

He sat there with the tea he'd been given, barely keeping his eyes open.

"Was a time I would've given anything to have you in this kind of position," Cooler said to the sleeping Goku, "You'd be dead. And here I am saving you. But I guess that's the way it works with you. People hate you...and then they don't."

He leaned back against the wall and yawned.

Something else, he just had to think about something else.

Tien, maybe, with those nice strong arms.

Yes. That would be nice.

He was far outclassed by Goku and Vegeta, but was more than enthusiastic about keeping up his training.

It wasn't like the others didn't care about their training, but Tien...Tien took it more seriously than they did, that was all.

And it very much worked in his favor.

That muscle, that rippling, hard, testosterone-drenched manliness...it was like Drogo, minus the hair.

He shifted a little as he sat.

The last date had been pretty quiet, in a verbal sense. They'd sparred for an extended period of time, because he was curious about Tien's actual training. Personally, he'd never received extended schooling, and he was enjoying being able to learn martial arts just for the sake of wanting to know more.

Then there'd been the gay bar again. Drinking and a nice, quiet, intimate evening.

Launch's antics hardly fazed him. He'd been the subject of a few persistent noblewomen (and men) in his youth and though he would not compare their mildly annoying stalking to Launch's campaign to prove to Tien that he wasn't gay, he could understand that those things happened.

He was just glad that the tiny flying car he bought had no tires for her to let the air out of.

None of that, though, caused him as much embarrassment as their first date.

He blushed just thinking about it.


*Some Weeks Prior*

The first date was going to involve the bar, just to keep things low-pressure.

Tien was, for lack of a better term, coming to pick him up, and they were going to have drinks, and maybe dinner if things went well. He wasn't supposed to show for another hour, so it gave him plenty of time to finish getting ready.

He'd never been so nervous.

That was, perhaps, the reason he'd elected to switch on his stereo. He needed something to take his mind off worrying how the date would go.

Five CDs were in it, he hoped he could get something good...

From the speakers came the answer.

Half past twelve

And I'm watching the late show in my flat all alone

How I hate to spend the evening on my own

Not that it was a good one. For the first few seconds he only felt more worried, but gradually, the tune began to ebb it away.

Gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight

Won't somebody help me chase the shadows away

Gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight

Take me through the darkness to the break of the day

It would be fine. He had a date at least, right? Right! He had a man on the way, there'd be a date, and with any luck there'd be no worrying about midnight.

As Cooler was still sorting through what to wear, he caught himself half-dancing; perhaps more alarmingly so, even singing along.

Despite that nagging anxiety, he was feeling happier than he had in quite a while.

As the song wound down, he was smiling.

The next song went on, mostly unnoticed. He was getting out a black shirt, a tan jacket, and one of his nicer pairs of jeans. It wasn't perfect, but he didn't want to look like he was trying too hard.

All dressed. Good.

The third song began. He walked back into the living room to cut the stereo off just as the second verse was starting.

Friday night and the lights are low

Looking out for the place to go

Where they play the right music, getting in the swing

You come in to look for a king

Anybody could be that guy

Anybody.

And because he was alone, he started dancing.

Ginyu would've been proud. Despite having no formal instruction on the more...enthusiastic...styles of Earth dance, Cooler was doing his best imitation of a club floor hands-over-head sort of thing.

A big hunk of a man was going to go out with him. He was going to own the night.

"--the dancing queeeeeeeeeeeeeen--"

From outside the apartment, Tien was approaching. He was more nervous than he'd like to admit, but Cooler seemed like a nice guy. And it was nice to be around someone who wasn't extroverted to the extreme, like Goku, or like Maron, or who wasn't introverted and grumpy most of the time, like Vegeta, or Frieza.

He knocked.

No answer.

Maybe the stereo was on too loud.

He knocked a bit harder.

The door shook a little bit, and he grabbed the doorknob, half-afraid he'd broken the wood in it.

"Shit!"

The doorknob now resembled a piece of squished, shiny Play-doh, and had a hand-shaped imprint on it.

"Great work, Tien, you've ruined the man's doorknob."

Well, that was a fantastic way to start the date. For a lack of anything else to do he nervously scuttled into the apartment, shutting the door ever so gently behind him.

"If you change your mind, I'm the first in line. Honey I'm still free, take a chance on...me..." Cooler stopped dead in his tracks, mid-step, when he sighted Tien.

"Ah," Tien started, "You weren't...you didn't answer the door..."

The stereo was shut off almost instantly.

"That's fine. Really."

"And I kind of crushed your doorknob."

"It's...it needed replaced anyway." Cooler's face couldn't have gotten any redder. Oh, great, the man had seen him dancing like a fool...

"Sorry I'm early, by the way."

"It's fine. Really, it's fine."


*Present Day*

Cooler was smiling.

It had been awkward, sure, but they'd gone on to have a great night.

Tien, thankfully, hadn't said a word about his dancing, for which he'd been extremely grateful.

And with these thoughts, Cooler drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

A Better Fate Than The Centipede

"...tell me..."

Birdie's heartbeat was already racing, and the look in this thing's eyes wasn't helping one bit.

"What?" she asked.

"I can tell you...eat. When was the last time?"

"I had a granola bar--"

Its grip on her wrists tightened, and its cat's-eyes narrowed. "That's not what I mean and you know it."

"A week ago."

"You must be starving, poor thing." There was a throaty chuckle. "Stay here."

When the thing moved back, she sat up. The thing leapt through the now empty window.

Birdie took in a long, slow breath. It was alive. It was alive, that thing that Gero had made. The thing that he'd tried to make her. The thing that--

--deep breath. A soda would fix this. She just needed a little bit of caffeine to steady herself. She went down the hall and into the break room and got one.

A few minutes later, she was feeling slightly better.

Better, that is, until she heard the mouth-breathing and dragging.

When she got up to look down the hall...

"I brought you something." It gestured behind itself; there was a man in a pizza company's uniform.

"I--" she started, "I only...eat people who deserve it. Criminals."

"He jaywalked."

To get away from him, no doubt.

"Come on, then."

Besides, the whelp was only an appetizer.


"...yes, mom, I'm going to be fine. These people know what they're doing. How do I know?"

Cooler sighed as Chi-Chi entered the room, and gestured to her to give Goku two more drops of the medicine before going on with his call.

"He's the strongest in the world, that's how. You don't need to...mom...mom, put dad on the phone."

Chi-Chi glanced back in mild confusion, before going back to the medicine.

"Dad, you've got to calm her down," Cooler went on, "I don't know how she got it into her head that I'm going to die, but try and calm her down. Yes, I will be down to visit you soon. No, it's not going to involve a five hour car drive. Yes, I'll be careful of the birds. What? Alright. I've got to go."

He headed downstairs, sighing.

"Your patient giving you trouble?" came Cold's query.

The oversized monarch sat in the corner, none too happy about the lack of a proper chair. But he was biting his tongue, regardless.

"None whatsoever. He's greatly improved, actually."

"Wonderful. Then we can get these fool androids taken care of, and see to your brother."

"What's wrong with him, anyway?" Chi-Chi asked, "Don't tell me he caught the virus, too."

"No, that he certainly did not."

Cold said no more.

She turned away, and headed to the sink for some water. Goku had been sweating up a storm, and his hair was a mess--

The house shook and as she turned away she stumbled, spilling the water. "Oh, no, they're here!"

Before the others could stop her, Chi-Chi ran up the stairs to find--an empty room.

"They must've gotten him already!" She saw the window open, and rushed to it. "You'd better--what?"

Cooler appeared behind her a moment later with Roshi.

Goku stood on the sand below, in front of a divided wave. His hand lowered, and there was a slight smile when he turned back.

Chi-Chi leapt out of the window without a second thought, skidding down the roof and landing only slightly roughly on her feet. "Goku, I'm so glad you're up!"

She wrapped him in a tight hug, which he returned. "It's nice to be up, too."

Sensibly, Cooler and Roshi took the stairs down. Both appeared in the doorway.

"You've missed quite a day," Roshi said.

"Are you sure you should be up yet?" Cooler asked, "I don't want you up merely for the sake of being eager to get back to training."

"I'm fine!" Goku grinned, "Never felt better, in fact!"

"I simply advise caution--"

"Ah, don't worry, I'm fine!"

"Goku, you can't just rush off," Chi-Chi said.

"I do. I got a lot of thinking done while I was out, and I've got a plan. Can you bear with me?"

"Well, I--"

"And I'll be keeping Gohan close, too. Don't worry, I've got this all figured out!"

Didn't he always?

Cooler sighed.

"But I do have a favor to ask you," Goku went on, looking at him, "A really important one."

"What's that?"

"Would you mind sticking close to Chi-Chi, just in case?"

"Goku--" Chi-Chi protested.

"I will until I have to go to work," Cooler replied, "At that point father will have to take over."

"I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that idea..."

"Oh, don't worry about him, Chi-Chi," Goku says, "He knows I'll flay him alive if he does anything."

Silence.

The serious look was there only briefly and Goku soon broke into another smile. "Bye!"

Pop


"Look, I--"

"Hush, Birdie, hush." There was a chortle. "This should make you very happy!"

"I doubt that--come on now, Cell, move your hands! I can't see a damn thing!"

"Fine, fine." He removed his hands; they had been covering her eyes. "Ta dahhh!"

They were standing in front of a large building with a sign, that read: North City Central Maximum Security Facility

"You said you only eat criminals?" he leaned over to whisper in her ears. "You say you only eat those who deserve it? This is where they keep the worst of the worst."

She was about to speak, but stopped short.

"I think they qualify."

"Cell--"

"They put mass murders and serial killers in here," he whispered again, "People who do unspeakable things to children. Rapists, even."

Her tail twitched.

"If they don't deserve it, then who does?"


"So we're just going to sit and wait?" Cooler asked.

"For the moment, yes," Piccolo said. "I don't like it any more than you do."

"Of course not," Cooler replied.

"I'm surprised you agreed to this plan so quickly. Don't you have other things to do?"

"Not especially. Guard duty is hardly the worst thing that I could be doing right now."

"I suppose I could agree," Cold replied, "Though I would rather be back at my...place."

"In any case...what's the plan?"

"We wait until we've figured out a concrete plan, with Goku involved, as to how to lock Cell down," Piccolo said, "And when we do, we strike hard and don't fool around."

"We could simply go after him now. His power is a mix of quite a few of your power levels...should it not be easy to track?" Cold asked.

"It's harder than you think. We've tried it already." Piccolo rubbed at his eyes.

"Maybe you should get some sleep, too. I can keep watch," Cooler said.

"No. I'm fine. I'm just--ready for this to be over."

Cold moved in front of the television. "Surely they'd have found him somewhere by this point. We do not need to wait for that monkey to take care of this beast."

Click

"--it is moving across one city after another--"

Click

"--run for cover--"

Click

"What in the hell is the king here doing, exactly?" Cold grumbled aloud, "Sitting and wringing his hands? If these were my people, this beast would be dead already!"

"Not everyone has our strength, father," Cooler said.

Click

"...supermax facility overrun by the fiend and his new companion."

Piccolo turned to look at the television again.

"We go now to our reporter in the field."

The scene changed.

"The thing is long gone," came the reporter's voice, "But it looks like he came through with someone and wiped out every prisoner in the entire facility."

"I wonder who..."

"Another copy of Gero, I shouldn't wonder," Cooler shrugged. "Wonderful. Something else we'll have to look into."

Click

Piccolo failed to stifle a yawn, and when he saw Cooler starting to speak, he glared. "Don't say it."

"I was only going to make a suggestion."

"I'll sleep when I'm dead!" came the retort. Piccolo got to his feet and headed toward the door.

When he opened it, he nearly jumped.

"I think I could help with that."

There stood Android Seventeen.

Chapter Text

Like Twins

Goku waved enthusiastically as he watched Vegeta and Trunks heading into the Hyperbolic Time Chamber.

"Well, that's more people to help," he said, "But...hmm, Cooler's going be busy, and his father's going to be watching Chi-Chi..."

"You let Frieza's dad watch mom?!" Gohan burst out.

"It's fine, Gohan. He's not going to do anything."

"Well, still--"

"We need to get Frieza in on this!" he said suddenly, "Wait here, Gohan, I'm going to go see him."

"Dad, wait, you really--"

Pop


Frieza awakened, still holding his egg, and weakly, he smiled.

How appropriate. How very right it was, that this should happen after he'd come to Earth, after he'd made himself a new life. He'd been going over that thought ever since he'd first found out he was pregnant, and it wasn't going away anytime soon.

There was so much he wanted to say to it, so much that he felt needed to be said, but he couldn't think of what to start with.

"I don't have to speak to you right away, though," he said, "But I will, later. When you hatch."

Frieza turned the egg, and pressed its other side to the warm biogem on his chest. The blanket, he wrapped around the exposed side.

"There, that will keep you warm."

Pop

Goku appeared, not three feet away from the edge of the bed. "Frieza, we need you to--"

But he stopped when he saw the egg.

"Oh! You had it!"

Frieza would have asked how he knew, but--it was pointless. Daft as the monkey could be, he was in the habit of knowing things. Sometimes he wondered if it was really all just an act...

"Yes, I did."

"It's too bad there's a baby in there. It looks like it would make a huge omelette."

"If you even think it, monkey, I swear to Lord--"

"No, no, it's fine!" Goku waved his hands nervously. "I just--we need your help. It's not just the androids now, it's this thing called Cell that Dr. Gero created."

"Can't you handle it? You're the hero, aren't you?"

"It's just, well, he's been given DNA from a lot of us. Me, Vegeta, Piccolo...you."

"I see." Frieza paused, "Regardless, I'm still not fully recovered, so I can't just rush off."

"But you were in the tank, right?" Goku questioned. "How could you have gone in but not be fully--"

"They put me in only long enough to heal the life-threatening...wounds," Frieza replied, "To heal me too quickly would negate some of the hormones necessary for--"

"Hang on," Goku said, "I'll get you something that'll fix all of that."

Pop

Frieza looked at his egg. "That is Son Goku. I expect you're going to be seeing a lot of him as you get older. I can only imagine what he's going to try and teach you..." He shook his head.

His grip on it tightened.

"I could say that at the very least, he has a good heart."

Good, but perhaps not--

Pop

"Here you go!" Goku spoke quickly, and the grin on his face spread even faster.

He held out what Frieza took to be a bean.

"What is this?"

"A senzu bean. Heals all wounds and brings you right back up to one hundred percent!"

Somewhat nervously, Frieza took the bean, and ate it. A second later, he was getting out of bed. "I commend your planet for producing such a thing. I wouldn't have thought it possible."

"Yeah, well, neither would I. But it happened." Goku shrugged. "So are you going to help?"

"Fine, fine, I will. Just let me put the egg back in the incubator."

He didn't much like the idea of simply leaving the egg, but it was obvious what would happen if he didn't. His father's strength still seemed diminished, and as for Cooler--well, he had work to do. Work that would no doubt be needed, if things got much worse.

He was just heading back to Goku when the Arcosian doctor reappeared.

"Lord Frieza, you should not be up!"

"I'm fine," Frieza replied, "Long story short, they have a wonder drug, it healed me. I'm fine."

The doctor insisted on taking his vitals, and after being satisfied that his patient was not lying, gave a nod. "Wait right here. There's something you need to have before you leave."

"Maybe it's some medicine," Goku said as the doctor left.

"Likely as not," Frieza replied, "Maybe he thinks I'll need painkillers."

"What would you need with those?"

"You think I don't need them, period? I do feel pain, you know."

"Well, still, it's just that--" Goku stopped cold.

The doctor was in the doorway.

A spot of fearful blue had appeared over his nose and was spreading.

The doctor was holding, and flicking the end of, a needle.

"A booster shot, Lord Frieza. You had some when you were younger, but considering the fact that you have a child now, having more can only help. And if you--" the doctor looked at Goku, "--are going to be anywhere near the child, you should have one as well. I'm sure we have one fit for saiyans."

Frieza tried to scramble behind Goku, who pushed him forward to avoid coming closer to the needle himself.

"You're not coming anywhere near my arm with that thing!" Frieza shrieked.

"Or mine!" Goku added.

"...it doesn't go in your arm."

Goku screamed the same bloody murder that Frieza did, and for a brief second both men clung to each other.

Pop

Chapter Text

Lovely Audrey

After the...attack...at the prison, Birdie had found herself both fidgety and exhausted. She'd lost count of how many times Cell bashed through a set of bars and held a screaming inmate prone, so that he, or she, might devour them.

The worst of them still weighed on her, though not through any guilt.


*A Couple Hours Prior*

When they came to some of the solitary confinement cells, she noticed through the small window one of the doors a disgustingly familiar face.

Infamous. It would be hard for anyone not to know that face.

A few years ago, that sandy-haired man had been convicted of kidnapping girls from various colleges; in court he had spoken of pro-choice demonstrations being allowed at these places and mentioned something about his civic duty to "change their minds". An entire manifesto had been dragged up for evidence--a manifesto found in his home, detailing the contempt for "these young women who should be at home, instead of out in the frightening world of men. What happened to the women who were eager to be mothers, eager to tend the home? They must be shown that it is the better way, by force if necessary."

There were further atrocities, of course, but she didn't like to think of them. No one did. Most of the girls when recovered were found to be pregnant; by the time the case went to court most had chosen to abort. They stood to speak in court for those who had failed to survive, and thanks to their testimony he was handed down several life sentences.

And that devil, he had the nerve to smile at her through the opening in the door!

"Cell," she said, "This one next."

"But there's one back there virtually begging for--"

"No, this one."

"If you insist." That throaty laughter sounded off, and she watched him charge a weak ki blast and break the door into pieces.

"Is this an escape?"

The man in question seemed almost amused.

"No," Birdie replied, "The opposite, in fact."

"I suppose this is some sort of social justice frippery?" came the calm reply.

"Oh, yes, definitely!" Cell's voice rang out merrily, and he came into view just behind Birdie; he leaned down with his head just over her right shoulder, grinning widely. "Whatever it is you've done, my Birdie will see you punished for it."

"The courts have already punished me," came the reply. There was only a momentary strain around his eyes--if he was afraid, he was not showing it. "Your Birdie, huh? At least she knows her--"

Birdie lunged, knocking him to the ground, and jabbed her tail's end deeply into his abdomen. "I'm going to make this slow, like you did for those poor girls." she said in a low tone, moving down to straddle him. She barely noticed Cell, who crept around her and knelt behind the man's head.

"If I may?"

She looked up, having already begun, and nodded. "As long as you take it slowly."

"I wouldn't dream of rushing such a fine huntress."

Cell's tail jabbed straight into the man's jugular. He looked down at her, pleased; she looked up, surprised.

And amid the screams, something happened.

There was a pulse. In tandem, they were feeding.


*Present Time*

He'd stuck closer to her when they left, and she wasn't altogether sure she hadn't crossed some invisible boundary. But whatever she'd done, had been done, and there was no going back on it.

"I want to go home," she said, "I'm exhausted and I want to sleep."

"You wouldn't rather stay someplace here? I'm sure we can find a lovely little hotel room."

"I want my own bed."

"Suit yourself."

And despite that answer, he still took her home--and as she expected, followed her in.

She took a minute to show him how to use the television and DVD player. "Watch whatever you want," she replied, "But please don't eat my cat."

"Cat?" he asked.

"A little furry creature. It's not going to be scared of you." Yawning, Birdie went into her bedroom and took her shoes off, before climbing right into bed.

Ugh.

"What am I going to do?" she asked herself. In a way, she felt responsible for him. He didn't know much of anything about anything--she'd heard the tapes, seen the files, and all that was there was killing Son Goku.

Maybe she'd get lucky, who knew...

She was asleep within a few minutes.


*Seven Hours Later*

Birdie was awake, and far more refreshed than she ever thought she'd be after sleep. She'd have loved to stay there, luxuriating in that delightful feeling, but there was something else to think of.

Sigh. Maybe he was already gone, though, judging from that appetite...

She changed her clothes and headed out her door and into the hallway.

"--and you've got me fightin' mad--"

"Cell?" she blinked in confusion, "What are you watching? And where's my cat?"

Cell didn't look up from the TV as he sat there on the floor, and lifted his wings to show that his tail was curled up behind him on the ground--and inside the loop, of course, was her cat.

"Well that's good to know. But what about--oh."

How fitting.

"--I don't come from no black lagoon, I'm past the stars and beyond the moon--"

"Why'd you pick this one?"

"The cover."

Of course.

He got up when the movie was over, completely ignoring the cat's protests at having her comfy spot moved.

"I'm going out," Cell replied, "You stay here--I've got to find those other two androids."

"And then what happens?" she asked.

He grinned. "You find out what perfection is."


*Elsewhere*

Chi-Chi glanced nervously out the window as Piccolo left with Seventeen.

"So if this doesn't work..." Yamcha said slowly. "...we're all doomed, aren't we?"

"Yup."

"And no dragonballs. Well that's just..."

"Something will be arranged," Cold said. He'd come outside with a little difficulty, and was now leaning against the side of the house. "If there is anything I have learned about you humans, and saiyans, it's your skill at pulling plans from nowhere."

"And our reliance on Goku," Chi-Chi said quietly.

"You rely on Goku because you choose to," came the curt reply. "Why not Vegeta? He at least takes things seriously. Goku, on the other hand, treats the entire business like a game."

"That's just Goku," Chiaotzu said.

"It's ridiculous, is what it is," Cold went on, "You rely on a man who plays with all of your lives in his pursuit of fun, and yet somehow he's still the hero."

"I don't see you offering any help," Roshi piped in.

"I am where he should--" Cold was about to say something absolutely scathing, when he suddenly stopped. "Excuse me."

He took a few steps, went behind the house, and drew what looked like a datapad from his pocket, flicking the power switch and looking over it.

"Why now?" the others heard him say. "This is the absolute worst possible time!"

No one asked when he reappeared, but his face looked severely pale and more than a little strained. It was a seven-word message from Nippy that had him rattled:

Your mother's ship is heading to Earth.

Chapter Text

Ultraperfection

"You could've died," was the first thing out of Cooler's mouth, "Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine," Tien replied, "Really, I am. Goku got to me in time, and we're back here now."

"That doesn't excuse how completely reckless--"

"I'm fine, Cooler."

"It's just--we don't have dragonballs."

"Take a breath."

"Alright, but..."

"A breath, Cooler." Tien stood to his full height. "It's not the end of the world."

"Yet, anyway." His phone bleeped a moment later, and while everyone else spoke, he checked his messages.

"It's a good thing I showed up when I did," Goku said, "Who knows how much longer you two would've had."

"Regardless," Piccolo said, "All this really did was buy us time. And without anyone down there to stop him, Cell's going to find Eighteen, and then--"

"That's what the training is for," Goku said, "He's not going to do anything until he can get to me."

From where he stood, Frieza shook his head. And they thought he had an ego?

"When am I going to get my shot in this supposed chamber? I have other things to do if it's going to take too long."

"This is the safest place to be right now, to be quite honest."

"If that is so, then I'm going to get Maron."

"And don't forget the--" Goku started, but was caught.

"I'm not going to," Frieza replied.

He was about to step off the edge of the platform when Cooler--who had considerably paled--suddenly spoke up.

"Brother, I thought you'd like to know this." He handed his phone over and showed Frieza the text.

"What? WHY NOW? Is she already there?"

"I'm not sure," Cooler said, "She could be, for all I know."

"Is who where?" Goku asked.

"Someone I--nevermind, monkey. I have to hurry."

"Excuse me." Mr. Popo walked over, "Your friends are coming out."

"You go in," Frieza said to Goku, "I'll take the next day, I suppose, when I get back."


"So do you think you're ready to be a parent?"

Maron looked up at Kale with only a little nervousness in her smile, and then glanced back to the incubator that contained the red egg. "Maybe. I don't know. It just happened so suddenly, you know?"

Kale gave her a smile. "I can understand that. I guess he didn't expect that what happened would lead to this. And then, suddenly, it did. You are happy about it, aren't you?"

"Oh, of course I am! I'm just--it's just that I'm scared." Maron took a deep breath, "I don't want to repeat my parents' mistakes. And he doesn't want to do what his father did, either."

"The fact that you're aware of it already makes you a better parent. Just keep a watch on yourself, and you'll do fine. You both will."

There was a knock at the door.

It whooshed open a second later, and two Arcosians, muted in color and dressed in armor, walked in and stood on either side of the door. Each held a set of bags.

And then there walked in a much older-looking Arcosian. She had skin of a dark lavender, and rich purple biogems, much like Frieza's. And though she had backward-pointing horns, it was impossible to see them--there was a veil pulled over them that was attached to a gold circlet.

"Which of you is the mother?" she half-croaked.

"And you are?" Maron asked.

"Did they not tell you?" The woman's eyes narrowed. "One would think that my grandson would want you to know of me. Unless he and my son been hiding my existence like some sort of horrible secret. I'll have to teach them a bloody good lesson over this one."

"Oh, are you Frieza's grandmother? I'm sorry, if I'd known, I'd have--"

"Yes, and that shows you to be much more considerate than he. But as for who I am--" She stood up straight, though it seemed to pain her to do so, "I am the former Queen Mother, Floe of Arcosia."

"Your majesty, should we--" one of the guards began to speak, but was cut off.

"Did I tell you to speak? We may not be on Arcos, but I can dismiss you just as quickly as if we were!" Floe snapped, and turned her attention back to Maron. "You look like a lovely young woman; tell me, is my grandson well?"

"Yes ma'am, very well," Maron replied, "He had just birthed the egg, but he was brought a...well, it is a long story, but he was brought a sort of miracle drug that restored his stamina and fixed his wounds."

"What the healing tank does, only faster?"

"Yes."

"It'll wreck his hormones, I'm sure, but these young men never think about these things." She paused, and then turned to look at Kale, "And you? Who are you?"

"My name's Kale," came the polite reply, "I used to work for your grandson--Frieza, that is, not Cooler."

"Oh, you're one of those saiyans, aren't you. Shouldn't you be off...helping with whatever issue it is that's keeping my family too busy to see me?"

"I'm not strong enough for that. It was my job to gather the dragonballs, but they've turned to stone, and--"

Floe held up a hand for silence. "I see. I will get the remaining information from my son and grandson. If they do not completely abandon the idea of seeing me at all."

"I doubt that they will," Maron added, "This beast they're fighting--he is much stronger than Frieza was when our friend Goku first fought him. It's not going to be easy. They're not intentionally ignoring anything, at least from where I sit."

"You and I share different places," Floe said. She took a seat in a chair that one of her guards brought over from another corner of the room, and relaxed. "Now, my girl, how about you tell me how you met my delinquent grandson?"


15:32 Maron? Are you there?

15:33 Yes, I'm here

15:34 Maron, is my grandmother there?

15:36 Yes. She's lovely, I don't know why you never told me about her before

15:37 She's not lovely, she's the devil in disguise. Just don't tell her a lot

15:38 I think you worry too much

15:40 You say that now, just wait!!


There was very little point in going to work, that much was obvious. Someone, somewhere, might be listening, but even if she simply did emergency broadcast, what could she really say? This creature might have killed you all but he needed the energy? Oh, and I joined in on it!

She could be ashamed about a lot of things, but...

...at least the venture at the prison would not be one of them.

Ring....ring...ring....

That was the ringtone she'd chosen for calls from unknown numbers, and so somewhat suspiciously, Birdie answered the call. "Hello? Who's this?"

"Hi there, Birdie!"

The voice was smooth, confident, almost...suave, even.

"...excuse me? Who is this?"

"Look at the street from your window!"

Sighing, Birdie went to her living room window.

The first thing she noticed was a set of empty clothes on the street. Its pockets were turned out and the change from one side was scattered on the ground.

She looked on, across the street, and her breath caught in her throat.

Standing at the payphone there, looking up her with a massive grin, waving eagerly, was--

"Cell?" she choked out, "What--who--how did you--"

"As I said!" came the bright reply, "You're going to find out what perfection is!"

Chapter Text

Not Fast Enough

16:30 Maron, is she still there?

16:32 Yes. Come on in.

16:33 No

16:33 You're being a child over this.

16:34 No, you don't get it, that woman is a tyrant

16:35 What, you mean like you?

16:36 That's not fair.

16:37 I'm telling her you're messaging me

16:37 Okay okay I'm coming out!


Maron gave a smile at the last message, and then looked up. "I think Frieza should be here soon. He wanted to take the egg, and--"

"Out of the incubator? That's absurd."

"I don't think he wants to do that, exactly," she replied, "But considering that thing that's been out and about, I think he wants to take it and the incubator somewhere safer."

"If they would all stay together there would be no safer place."

"But," Kale said, "They've managed to locate a place where they can do a year's worth of training in a day."

"I see," Floe replied, "Some demonic arrangement, I'd imagine."

"A local god, actually."

"At least they're not total buffoons."

As she was gesturing to one of her guards, Frieza walked in.

Floe's eyes turned toward him.

He stood still for a second, forced a false smile, and began to speak, "Grandmother--"

"Do not 'grandmother' me, you little icicle," Floe stood and took angry strides in Frieza's direction, "Three years, three years it's been, and you've not even had the decency to tell me what's been going on. You just up and started a new life without any consideration for anyone else."

"It's my--"

A wrinkled finger was jabbed into his chest as she went on angrily, "Your life, maybe. But you didn't even give so much as a fare thee well! Nor did your father!"

"I wasn't exactly in a position to--"

"Sit down and listen to me!" Floe snapped, "I expect notifications on the welfare of my family, Frieza. I expect to at least know that they're alive and well. I expect to be told when there are changes, like children, or proposals, or--"

"Proposals? When did you hear about that?"

"You--"

"What's this about proposals?" Maron asked.

Floe suddenly stiffened, and then turned back to her with rather an odd expression on her face. "It was just an example, my dear."

"I'm sorry, grandmother," came Frieza's voice, "Is that what you wanted to hear? I'm not trying to exclude you."

"You've a funny way of showing it," she replied, "I want to be involved in my family's life."

"Well, you can, just...I'd prefer it if you did it a little more carefully right now. That thing running around right now is more dangerous than you realize."

"I see nothing to be afraid of. If that monkey can beat you, he can beat it."


Cell seemed to be grinning about something, but she didn't dare ask what it was; she assumed it was about attaining his 'perfection,' and let the thought go at that. 17 and 18 had never been too familiar to her, but still--

"Watch the news, and be ready when I get back."

This was getting stranger by the second.

Ready? Ready for what?

She turned on the TV, and sat down in front of it. Gods, what a mess. What an awful mess. If she could just find some way to get in contact with this Son Goku...but then, if she did, what would she say?

This thing is after you?

And what would he do after he killed Son Goku? What did he want?

Miaow

"Not now, Ashi."

Miaow

The cat jumped from the floor to Birdie's lap, and then reached up to paw at one of her hands.

"Ashi--"

Continued pawing.

"Oh, alright." She gave a slight smile, and started scratching behind the little bob-tailed cat's ears. "There, is that what you wanted?"

Miaow

Birdie gave a sigh at that. "I don't know what to do about him, Ashi. I mean, it's not like I've got much of a choice. I...sort of...look like him, and if I don't hang around him I'm liable to be shot, or who knows what else."

Ashi batted at her hand again.

"But then again, he's gone..."

At that, she stopped.

She looked down at her phone, and opened the contacts list. Someone she'd forgotten about would probably want to know she was even still here.

Ring....Ring...

"Corvus Hawkins."

"Dad?"

"Birdie--?! Oh my gods! Are you alright? I tried calling the office, and then your phone, but--"

"I'm fine, dad, don't worry."

"But that thing is out there. I thought it blazed through Nicky Town, and...how did you get out of there?"

"You know me, dad. I can...ehe...disappear."

"I want the truth. I don't buy that joke for a second."

"He left me alone."

There was a pause.

"How?"

"Dad--"

"If that monster did anything to you, I'm getting a shotgun and I'm going to take him apart the old-fashioned way."

"He didn't do anything, dad. I don't think he even knows how to--you remember when I told you about Gero? What he did to me?"

"That bastard mutilated your body. Of course I remember that. I thought I'd never see you alive again, before you showed up and--what does he have to do with this?"

"This..." Birdie hesitated to say man, despite the obvious hints of Cell's supposedly 'perfect' form, "...I found in some of Gero's notes that what he did to me was only an experiment, or a test, something like that. The prototype. This new...he's...the finished product."

"Gero made him, using features he tested on you. Is this what you're saying?" Her father's tone had shifted. Before, he'd sounded panicked. Now it was sternness, through and through.

"Yes."

There was another pause, and a slow intake of breath from the other end of the line. Several other voices were chattering in the background as he spoke again, "Birdie, turn on your television. Channel 7."

"Dad--"

"Now." His tone was harder than ever.

She grabbed the remote and switched over to channel 7.

"...a tournament so grand, it will leave you breathless. I hereby dub it--the Cell Games!"

"What in the hell?"

Breathing. Her father was in the same state of shock that she was.

A tournament?. Was this really how he intended to attract Son Goku's attention?

She shook her head, and looked back up at the television. "...the location of this marvelous event is 28KS.5. If you don't know where that is, blame the cartographers. The games will start at noon one week from today."

A week...why wait a week? Was it to give his opponents time to get there?

"That should give you plenty of time to prepare. Or, for those not participating; time to connect with loved ones...get your affairs in order...or maybe just kill your boss. Get a purge going."

She'd taken a dive into the deep end with no way out. Cell was certifiably insane and he was going to head right back here.

"...Live a little!" He was grinning from...well, it was a wide expression. "Because in one week's time...well, to give you an idea..."

Birdie's eyes widened as Cell raised his hand, charged a ki beam...

...and shot it off behind him. The wall crumbled, the city ground that it touched was wiped clean, straight down to the dirt, buildings were virtually disintegrated, and to cap it all off, the last obstacle, a barely-visible mountain at the horizon line was completely destroyed.

"I'm packing and leaving now, dad," Birdie said in a trembling voice. She switched the TV off and took a deep breath to steady herself.

"Good. I don't care if you have to steal a car off the road--no one's using the damn things anyway since this thing rolled through town--get down here to West City as fast as you can."

It was either fight or flight or freeze, and she wasn't fond of the first and last options.

Flight it was.


A car, any car, was all she thought about as she fled down the stairs with a duffel bag slung over one shoulder and a cat carrier, by the handle, in the opposite hand.

She'd had to leave her own vehicle at the radio station and there was no way of getting it back with the time she supposed was left. As she stepped into the parking garage, the car at the front of the queue, thankfully with the keys still in the ignition, was one of the newer hovercars. It could get fifteen feet off the ground--good, good, she might need that if the highway was blocked up.

There didn't seem to be a lot of traffic.

Good.

All she could think about was reaching her father. Somehow or the other that seemed like the safest place to be right now. He was in West City on business, and he'd be there for a while. She wouldn't have to worry about Cell, at least for the time being.

The speedometer ticked up slowly but steadily and she found herself soaring over a strangely empty highway. Well, he'd been fast at the prison...maybe there just hadn't been time for everyone to start fleeing for their lives in the cities he'd hit besides Nicky Town?

Must go faster.

She took a deep breath and tried again to steady herself. West City. Safety.

West City.

Safe--

"Wooooooooooooo!"

What the hell?

She looked in the rearview mirror. Nothing. That had at first sounded like a police siren's noise, but then it fell into sounding more like some weird imitation.

"Excuse me, young lady!"

Cell's new voice sounded off just outside the driver's side window, and she let off the gas pedal--more out of shock and reflex than anything.

He was just laying on his left side, arms crossed, mid-flight, like it was the most natural thing in the world.

"Do you know how fast you were going?"

Chapter Text

Cicada Noises

Birdie gradually slowed the car when it became obvious that Cell wasn't going anywhere, and pulled to the side of the road. A minute later she was completely stopped there, with the window rolled down.

"Now," Cell said, "I told you to be ready, but this is not what I meant."

"I--" she went hunting in her mind for an excuse, but nothing came up, "I just--"

"But I did say live a little...were you going somewhere?"

"Shopping," she said quickly.

"With your cat?"

"I--"

"Shame on you, Birdie. I don't think she much enjoys being in there. Now come on, out you go."

He gestured, and she exited the driver's side.

"Get your bag and that thing your cat is in. We're going back."

"Back? Back where?"

"I went through a mall back in Nicky Town. If you want to shop, you can do it there." He gave a knowing grin. Whatever lies she told--he was seeing through them.

"There's no one there, Cell. It's stealing. Not to mention creepy."

"They're certainly not going to be using anything in there!"

"Still--"

At that, he opened his arms.

When she gave him a quizzical look, he said, "Did you think I was going to let you drive back?"


18:00 I can't make it dad

18:01 Call me!

18:02 I can't.

18:03 Is he there?

18:04 Yes. He found me. I don't know how, but he found me.

18:05 I'm going to go down there and get you out of there myself, then!

18:06 Please don't, dad. He doesn't want to kill me. I don't want him to kill you if you come down here. Just wait. Okay? I'll be fine.


The dormant scientist in her was still working overtime trying to figure him out. The last time she'd seen him before that incident in the radio station, he'd been nothing more than a tiny twitching fetus in a tube. And now, here he was...

...fully grown.

Sort of.

"What do you want?"

"Eh?"

Cell looked up from his seat on the floor. He'd been perusing her bookshelf--pulling things out at random, glancing over titles and the text on the back, and then putting them back.

"What do you want? Did you want to go shopping with me?"

"Of course I do!"

"...why?"

"Why not?"

Sort of.

"For a number of reasons. You just threatened to destroy the world."

"And?"

"And you can't just go out in public like nothing happened after that."

Was he just not good with logic?

"Why not?"

"People might try to kill you. Or me, for that matter. And it doesn't matter what you can do, you can bring down the building, even, but then that'll ruin what you're trying to do."

"I suppose you're right."

Good.

"But I still want to go out with you."

"Why? Why me?" The words were out before Birdie could stop them.

"Just look at you!" Cell said brightly, "Why wouldn't I?"

She wasn't sure how to take that. Was he being clingy? Possessive? Had Gero hardwired him to see her that way? There were too many unanswered questions...

Maybe he was just lonely, and she had some of his features, so...

"Fine," she said, "But--just please, don't kill anyone."

"Maybe if I have a good time, I won't."


The logistics were lost on Cell until Birdie explained them, and he flew her back to the radio station so she could retrieve her car. The drive to the nearest city was the most nerve-wracking one she'd ever made, for multiple reasons. The biggest one was that the car was a convertible, and everyone would see Cell in the passenger side.

"What are you buying, anyway?" Cell was reaching down to fiddle with the radio knobs before she could stop him.

"Oh--I don't know," she said quickly, "Be careful with that, the station I had it on can be pretty lou--"

"--TO THE CORE I'M MEEEEEEAN. LOOK AT ME, I'M ALMOST A HUMAN BEING--"

She reached out and turned the volume down.

"That's incredible."

"What is--oh, hell."

By this point they were reaching the outer edges of the city. On their side, the traffic was clear, but on the other, the cars were backed up for what looked like miles.

"What are they running from?"

"You."

"But I haven't been there!"

"People will run from something that destroys buildings."

This was a bad idea that was only getting worse, she thought. But he'd kept insisting.

Cell hadn't hurt her yet, and she wanted to keep it that way.

"Oh, can we go to the mall?"

"Why, so you can absorb more people there?"

Cell gave a grin. "I don't need to do that anymore."

"No?"

"But if you get hungry--"

"If I get hungry, I'll get a hot dog at the food court."

"You're no fun."

"I'm trying to be realistic. You've made some very serious threats and--"

She made a turn, and tried to collect her thoughts. Keep it light, keep him happy.

"--just try not to kill anyone, please."

"I promise I won't kill anyone. Today."

It was something, at least.

They pulled into the mall parking lot and shockingly, it was more than half full.

Great. Just great.

"We'll go in through the Sears. There's hardly ever anyone in there anyway," Birdie said. She checked her purse, and then got out of her car.

"What are you looking for?"

"Just making sure I've got all my cards, is all."

There was relative silence as they came into the Sears, as true to what she'd said--there was hardly anyone there. The clerks who were seemed to opt for a stunned silence.

"This place looks boring. What is all this stuff?"

"Power tools," Birdie answered, "For people that want to do DIY stuff, like add rooms onto houses; they need tools to cut wood and put in screws. Things like that."

She passed through the rest of the store and into the mall's second floor. Alright, she had to invent something to shop for. She needed a few shirts, maybe she could get away with only buying a few, and then...

"What is this stuff?"

Cell's attention had been drawn by the large water-fountain that lay in the middle of the first four-way intersection of the floor.

"It's a fountain."

"No, the things in the water."

"Oh, it's money people threw in. The fountain is a--Cell, get out of the water!"

He was calf-deep in the water fountain, reaching down to grab coins, when she spoke.

"What?"

"That's stealing."

"So? They threw it in there."

"It belongs to the mall now, not whoever walks by."

"Fine." His visage changed a little, and Birdie felt the fear waver into existence at the sight of his now-grumpy face. "I intend to get something out of this trip, though."

"Like what?"

"I don't know, but it better be good."

She wasn't dumb enough to ask what would happen if it wasn't good.

The mall, at minimum, would probably--

Screaming.

As they walked on, there was a scream, and then another. People rushed into the stores on either side of the main walkway, and there was a lot of pushing and shoving and shouting about getting out of the monster's way.

"You're not exactly a prize yourself, buddy!" he called out to the last person.

"Cell, please."

"I want something."

"What do you want?"

"I don't know. I'll figure it out after you get what you came for."

She sighed again, and headed for the nearest clothing store. A couple of shirts and she'd be golden. It'd just take--

"Alright, let's see..."

She headed for the sale rack, and started looking through the selection.

A shirt that looked like the american flag, for some reason, a valentine's day shirt...

Lots of junk. Maybe--

Behind her, there was shuffling. When she turned to look, Cell was attempting to try on a black sweater.

"You can't do that in the middle of the store!" she said.

"Where am I supposed to do it, then?"

"The fitting room."

"That's dumb."

"It's how things work."

"How things work is dumb, then."

"Pick a few more things out. I'll show you to the fitting room when I go."

"Alright, fine."

He picked a few other things out, and once she'd finished making a few random selections, Birdie heading for the back of the store.

The lone clerk, wide-eyed, squeaked, "How many?"

"I have four. He's got...five."

They were handed a couple of hang-tags for their respective doors, one labeled four, and the other, five.

"The men's section is over there," Birdie gestured, "I'll be going over here. Change into one thing at a time, and see if they fit."

"Why are they divided?"

"Because women don't like changing too close to men."

"Why?"

"I don't know." She was at the end of her patience as she stepped into her little room, and so failed to notice that she hadn't shut the door all the way.

How long was he going to need to be babysat like this?

The thought was put aside a moment later, and she started to change into and out of the shirts she'd selected.

Red one, good fit. Green one, not so good. Back on the rack. Black, even worse, couldn't get it on. Back. Blue...oh, good.

She'd call it a day from there, at least for this store.


Cell had gotten through his selections rather quickly. One of them had a rip from attempting to pull it down over his wings, so he'd thrown it on the floor. The next three shirts he couldn't even vaguely get on, and the fifth--well, he could look at it and tell it wasn't going to work.

Ugh.

Maybe Birdie was having better luck.

He headed towards the women's changing section, and when he heard movement from one of the rooms he moved in closer. There was a crack in the door.

She was pulling a shirt off, with her back facing him.

There was a curve about her chest area, and as it moved down, it moved in, before going out again at the hip. And that skin, that green skin, spotted with flecks of even darker green...

She turned slightly, and he got a sight of her chest, covered of course by some odd bit of fabric with straps.

Cell wasn't altogether sure what he was seeing.

But he knew he liked it.

Chapter Text

Les Freres Hereux

Frieza was taking entirely too long, so Cooler and Tien had gone into the Time Chamber.

At least, that had been the plan--from everyone else's perspective, anyway. But they hadn't been inside it for more than an hour before they were leaving again.

"Could you not handle it?" came Piccolo's question.

"Oh, we're fine," Cooler said, "It's just--we forgot something, is all."

"What did you forget? It can't have been anything that important, there's food and water and plumbing and a whole lot of other things in there that--"

"It's important. You can take a few hours in there while I get what we need."

"Suit yourself."

Piccolo walked past them, and Tien stood a little outside the doorway.

"I swear it won't take me more than a couple hours at the most," Cooler said, "I'll be back before you know it."

Tien gave a nod.

It would've been much worse if he'd waited inside the room. At least this way it wouldn't be weeks.


Cooler texted Frieza again as he left the store with a bulging cloth bag. There was no reply.

He'd thought his brother WANTED to get into the time chamber. Sure, their grandmother was frightening, but...

Ugh.

He'd have to go in and see them, wouldn't he?


"...and furthermore..."

Maron was astounded. Frieza was sitting in that chair with his head a bit down like some little boy being scolded by an elderly teacher. Everything she'd heard about him was now being turned on its head. What evil emperor would sit there and take this kind of thing?

"...now! What do you have to say?"

Frieza took a deep breath before starting. "I'm sorry I didn't talk to you for so long."

She waited, silently, for him to finish.

"I really didn't want to even think about Arcos if I could help it."

"Regardless of what you're trying to do to change yourself," Floe said, "You are part of a noble family and that is not easily forgotten. Nor will we easily forget you. You were the heir to it all, do you really think it would be that easy to leave? You can't simply ghost us like we've been abusing you."

"I--alright, I'm sorry, again, grandmother."

It seemed to satisfy her, thankfully. Floe's attention then turned from him to the egg inside the incubator. "I see you've been quite busy. Is it well? Did you take care of yourself while you were pregnant?"

"Of course I did."

"And no one found it odd?"

"Plenty of people did, but no one said much to me about it. I'm ranked near the top of the company, so it's likely they thought that it'd be best not to gossip about a higher up."

"Good. Now, about this woman of yours--"

Knock knock

"Oh, thank god," Frieza said under his breath.

Cooler entered.

"Frieza, what's the holdup?"

"The holdup is me, I'll have you know," Floe said, turning her gaze on him. "And where exactly have you been?"

"Training," Cooler replied.

"Before that!"

"Working!"

"Hmph." She crossed her arms, "I suppose you're in business."

"No, I'm a doctor, actually. But grandmother--" and here he gave her a one armed hug. He shuffled a bit to do so, and the receipt from his bag fell to the floor. "--I don't know if they have told you or not, but this is a dangerous place to be right now. There's a monster running about that could kill everyone, and we'd be devastated to lose you. You should at least--"

"I'll be fine, I'll go to that lookout Frieza told me about later." She returned his hug quite happily, it seemed, and looked on Frieza with an unfriendly eye afterwards.

"I've got to head back," Cooler replied, and a second later he added the lie, "Work again. With that monster about there's been a lot of trauma injuries."

"Go, then. Go and do the world some actual good. I'm glad to see that at least one man in the family isn't an enormous disappointment."

"What about grandpa, when he was alive?"

"What about him? Go. I imagine they're eager to have you back."

Cooler shot Frieza a smirk as he left, and grumbling, Frieza glared.

"Now," Floe turned back to Maron, "Tell me about this little scheme of yours involving your parents. I've heard only a little about it, you see."

"Well, it started with a dawn raid..."

"Oh, I love those." Floe grinned.

Frieza sat back up, and glanced to the ground, not at all eager to make eye contact with his grandmother again--and glad her attention was elsewhere.

His eyes fell, a second or two later, on the fallen receipt, which he picked up and unfolded.

TROJAN PLEASURE PACK 36CT

FOUR LOKO

TROJAN ENZ

FOUR LOKO

K-Y JELLY 2OZ

His nose wrinkled--and he balled the receipt up, too disgusted to finish reading it.

Chapter Text

Pregame Changes, Part 1

"It broke? What do you mean, it broke?!"


Ginyu was feeling fairly optimistic.

After a lot of deliberation, he'd decided to ask Kale to the picnic, as a date. It seemed like an easy enough thing--even though it was a wedding reception, he'd tried to be clear about not putting any pressure on her.

She'd accepted, but had called an hour ago saying she'd be a little late. Something about work.

That was fine.

"Ginyu, you're late," Roshi called out, "What's going on?"

"I'm not late, I'm on..." he checked his watch. "...damn."

"Five minutes. I thought you were some kind of stickler for being on time!"

"I was--I am! I'm just, I was--"

"Hehe...got a little distracted there eh? Been at it with Kale, I bet."

Stammering, Ginyu replied, "N-no."

"I bet you wish you had been!"

Silence.

Ginyu's naturally lavender-hue was getting more and more scarlet by the second.

"How did you meet her, anyway?" Trunks hadn't known him very long, and had in fact still a distrust of him due to association with Frieza. But he seemed to have gotten used to the situation, regardless.

"Oh, well, that's a strange story. I was away from the station where the boys and I lived, with them, for some mission. And when I came back, we all went to the bar to celebrate." He laughed, "There'd been a dance contest set up. She hadn't been on the station too long, but she seemed interested and stepped up regardless."

"A dance...contest." Trunks raised a brow.

"She saw it as a challenge. I'd never lost any kind of dance contest before in my life--but that night, I did."

There was a chuckle from Vegeta's direction.

"And from there?"

"I wanted to know how she managed to beat me, of course. That led to a few hours of conversation, and everything went on from there."

"I see."

"...don't stop...believiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!"

The virtual screeching of Krillin's horrific, off-key singing perfectly complemented the awful feedback from the microphone; over all of that, however, a new sound began to echo.

Everyone looked up at the ship that was coming steadily down for a landing.

"What in the heck is--"

Soldiers in armor seemed to rush out--everyone capable of fighting stood, ready for trouble--but they made no attempts to attack. Instead, they all knelt in a crowd around Vegeta, hailing him as "Lord."

He seemed quite pleased.

"It has been too many years, Prince Vegeta." Another voice, older than the rest, sounded off. And approaching through the crowd of soldiers was a built, tanned man with familiar dark hair.

He reached his target, and knelt.

"Or should I say, King."

There was a pause. From a distance, the others watched--not relaxing, even though Vegeta seemed to be perfectly at ease.

And then, suddenly, he turned and walked back towards them.

"Your planet is full of nothing but entitled weaklings, you're all virtually worthless. I, on the other hand, have a birthright to claim."

And with that, he turned away.

Trunks ran after him, only to be stopped by Paragus.

"And who are you?"

"His son," Trunks glared up at Vegeta.

"Ah, then of course you're welcome to go as well. And...your entourage, I suppose, will also be necessary." He looked back at the rest of them, and while he squinted at Ginyu, he said nothing.


"So what is this?"

"It's food, Cell."

The questions never seemed to stop with him. Most of the time after that initial, disastrous clothing shop visit had been filled with questions.

What was this? That? Why didn't she do this or that?

She'd finally managed to convince him to sit down so she could get lunch. Despite one frightened McDonald's clerk in the food court, everything had gone well enough as getting the food--a large burger meal and a sundae.

But he stared at the tray. "I don't understand why you need to eat like that anyway. You can do the other way."

"I grew up eating things like this. Here--" she said, handing him a few fries, "Try."

Mimicking her actions, Cell ate the fries. "It's a strong taste, kind of--"

"Salty," she said. "They put lots of it on food."

Pop

"Cell, did you destroy South Galaxy?"

Goku popped out from nowhere, barely a few feet away from him, and asked the question with such suddenness that Birdie, startled, nearly fell out of her chair.

"Who the heck--how did you--"

"No one to worry about," Cell said quickly. He stood, and turned toward Goku. "There's a South Galaxy?"

Pause.

"Forget I told you that."

"...no."

Pop

The wheels turned slowly, but Birdie had a suspicion. "Was that--" she tried to remember the name, and as had become a habit of hers, started to snap her fingers to help her remember. "--that Goku character you want to kill?"

Silence.

Deer-in-the-headlights look from Cell, who kept his back to her. A moment later, he inexplicably started glancing around. "Yes."

Left. Right. Under the table.

"What are you doing?"

"Looking for something."

As he continued to look for the source, a sort of noisy hum of its own began to echo from within him.


"You call this a palace worthy of a King?!"

Vegeta was, to say the least, not impressed.

"Well you see, my prince, I did not want to get too eager about building the place, only to find that it did not suit your preferences. This is merely a jumping-off point, you understand," Paragus said.

"I suppose I can accept that. But I want more towers!"

Someone shuffled forward, a young giant bedecked with odd gold jewelry.

Vegeta looked up. "And who is this?"

"My son, Broly. He's quite passive, I assure you he will not be any trouble."

There was a brief glare, but otherwise, silence.

The tour went on.

Vegeta was becoming progressively more irritated as the time went by, and was not shy about expressing his displeasure.

"This is a marvel of disappointment. I left thinking this would be something worth doing so for. And instead, all I get is a model of failure. You have nothing worthy of my title, or in fact any title."

Paragus had gone silent.

At least, until Vegeta began to head back toward the ship.

"My liege, please, as I said before, things are still in the works! I merely needed approval from you for continuing the work, I--"

"And I still can't believe I wasted this much time on a planet with nothing to offer. I am leaving."

As Paragus was about to interject, he found himself cut off. This time, by Trunks.

"Father! He's been lying to you the whole time!"

"About?" Vegeta looked up at Trunks. At this point his disappointment had faded into mere displeasure; it was his usual, so no one seemed surprised by it.

"Everything! The planet, the people, your new kingdom! Even the greenery is manufactured!"

Ginyu showed up a second later, carrying two of the alien children. "He's enslaved an entire race!"

There was a pause, and Vegeta looked back at Paragus.

"And is this true?"

"...yes. It is."

He was panicked. There hadn't been time, he still needed at least another three hours, but three and a half was the ideal.

He just needed more time...

"Then you had better explain." Vegeta's arms crossed.

Paragus took a deep breath. It could be saved, possibly, but...

...he wasn't sure how much farther he could stretch this out. Broly was right there, and if he suspected, even for an instant...

"Hey, Geets!"

The happy voice sounded off as Goku appeared.

"What are you doing here, Kaka--" Vegeta started, and Paragus cut him off.

Just in time. Broly had only given a twitch, and his eyes had widened--but even that was too much of a danger signal for his father's liking.

"Goku! Yes! It's wonderful to have another visitor for the planet. Have you come to join the rest of your race?"

"Well, no. I'm just here to find out who destroyed South Galaxy."

"Probably someone really strong..." came Broly's weak voice.

"Well, yeah. That's probably it," Goku said. "But who would do something like that? I don't sense anyone so far who could...but they could be hiding their power level."

Paragus shifted.

Vegeta glanced back at him. "Explain everything, now."

A glance to the sky.

Maybe, if he could talk long enough...

"Very well."

Chapter Text

Pregame Changes, Part 2

"I will not bore you with every last detail," Paragus remained calm as he spoke, "But it began when Broly was born. A power level of 10,000, I thought, would please the King--but I was wrong. He was threatened by that, and so ordered the boy executed."

Silence.

"And saw to it himself, perhaps eager to make sure that the deed was done."

"That's horrible."

He didn't see who said that. All that mattered was that it wasn't Vegeta.

"And the last thing that my son heard before that attack was the name of the baby in the crib next to him," Paragus said, "Of course, he failed, and had the boy cast out, along with me."

"But then, how did you survive the planet blowing up?" came Ginyu's voice.

"My son's power, of course."

"Look, I'm just here about South Galaxy," Goku cut in, "So does this have anything to do with it?"

"It does, in fact. Because when I uttered a single word, my son went wild, and entirely exterminated South Galaxy."

"So...what was the word?"

"I am not telling you the word that will trigger my son. Do not ask again, I'm not--"

"I'll agree with you," Vegeta said, "Big surprise there. Shut it, Kakorot."

Broly twitched.

"Please don't say that again."

"It was friends!"

"Please--"

"I SAID SHUT UP, KAKOROT!"

"Just call him Goku, father!" Trunks yelled.

"I will call him what the saiyan race decided to gift him with. KAKOROT! Kakorot is his name, and--"

"KAKOROOOOOOOOOOOOOT!"

Energy crackled around Broly; his aura raged into life and flared furiously.

"We should be running," came Paragus's suddenly small voice.

Broly's roar of anger turned unnatural, and as his power continued to build, his jewelry began to shatter.

"Shit--!"

It pulsed, it rose, it leapt; the energy that the rage gave off had seemingly no end. Broly swelled with muscle, and shot up almost another two feet in height.

And when he finally calmed, he looked at Goku.

"Kakorot..."

"...yeah...?"

"How big did you say your power level was?"

Goku shifted.

"Pretty big."

"My power is maximum."

"Goku, don't antagonize him."

Ginyu's warning went unheeded.

"Well, prove it!"

Broly launched himself at Goku, who took off in flight--along with Trunks, Gohan, and Ginyu.

Goku landed a short distance away. "Guys, I think we'd better go--"

"Alright on it," Trunks said. He powered into Super Saiyan, as did Gohan.

"You'd probably better hang back," Goku looked at Ginyu. "Get everyone you can back to the ship, okay?"

"Right." He launched into flight just as Broly arrived, already swinging.

One punch, Goku, two, Gohan, three, Trunks.

Each tried to swing back--but Broly was too fast, and dodged before they could even get close.

"Gohan, you too."

Goku was focusing intensely, sparing only a half-second for the warning. Unfortunately, it was a half-second too much.

Broly swung at him, knocking him to the ground. Then, he charged after Gohan, absolutely shattering a derelict building. He caught up--

--and sent the smaller half-saiyan barreling down the side of another building. The outer layer crumbled into pieces as the moving point of impact continued along its surface, with Gohan's screams moving as well.

There was laughter building. Broly charged a ki blast, and sent it at Gohan.

But at the last possible moment, the blast was knocked aside.

"What--?!"

Lights were dancing in front of Gohan's eyes, but the blur of green was obvious. "Piccolo..."

"Are you okay?"

"...not...really..."

"You! You, green man! I want to fight YOU next."

"Give me a minute, then."

"I don't like waiting!"

Piccolo rushed over to Goku. "Fill me in here--and quickly. Can we beat him?"

"I...think we can, I mean...I've always won before, so..."

Goku's vision, too, was blurry. Instead of one Piccolo, there were three. "Hey, there's...more than one of you, is your...dad visiting?"

"Oh, hell..."

Piccolo rose up, and floated quickly to Broly's level. A moment later, the other three joined him.

"Alright, you monster," came Trunks' voice, "You're about to--"

"Monster...?" Even Broly's voice hulked at this point, "...I am no monster."

There was a silent moment...

A wicked grin spread over his face, "I'm the devil."

Goku and Piccolo charged at Broly, striking with swift punches before he could speak any more.

But the strikes did nothing. He barely reacted to them, and when he did, he simply pushed them away.

"MASENKO!"

The blasts from Trunks and Gohan were also dodged. Broly leapt to the ground, and Piccolo barreled down toward him a second later--striking his target, but falling, before being kicked.

There was a groan.

Gohan and Trunks moved forward to stop Broly, but he went right by them and kicked Piccolo into the distance.

"Kakorot..."

He growled, looking down at the shaky Goku.

"You're supposed to be the strongest."

"Yeah...I am..."

"Excuse me!"

A grunt from Broly as he turned toward the sound.

It was Vegeta.

"You've been ignoring me this entire time."

"And?"

"And I am your--"

Broly moved forward, first growling, then practically roaring, and pinned Vegeta to the wall by the throat.

"...king."

He leaned close; his pupil-less eyes virtually boring a hole in Vegeta. "And what is a king to a god?"

Vegeta's answer was muffled.

And just like that, a second later--Broly let him drop.

The sound of footsteps.

Then flight.

And finally, a door opening.

Broly looked up. A smirk crossed his face when he saw his father getting into a ship.

He moved over, completely ignoring the battered bodies he'd left behind.

"Where are you going, father?"

"I was--making sure we had a way to leave."

"A pod built for one?"

"Son--try to--" Paragus was practically stammering. "S-son, try not to do this."

"Broly does not try. Broly DOES NOT."

Crunch

"Goodbye."

He laughed, and launched the remnant of the pod toward the comet.

"Everyone is gone."

Broly looked up at the comet.

"Not everyone."

The voice came from behind him, and Broly turned to look.

"Who are you?"

"Don't you want to know what my power level is?" Ginyu asked. He was powering up. If he didn't do this right, that was it--for everyone, maybe.

"What is your power level?"

"Not very much."

"Then this won't take long."

Broly's eyes widened just before he took off--and it was that that Ginyu reacted to; had he not, he would likely not have been able to finish his plan.

Neither of them saw the others approaching. Broly saw only his target, and Ginyu's back was turned.

His body was practically bursting with its energy when he finally said, "CHANGE...NOW!"

There was a flash.

A thump on his head.

A pop.

And Ginyu felt the coolness of a ship floor, before blacking out entirely.

Chapter Text

Cicada Noises, Part 2

Birdie drove back to her place once she was done shopping.

Cell was clutching a book.

"I still don't know why you chose that one. There's a lot of other things I could've bought you in that bookstore."

"Well I wanted this," he fussed. "I feel I greatly identify with this particular gentleman's struggle."

"If you insist."

She shrugged, and headed to get her bags out of the trunk.

Cell followed her in, already reading.

"I still don't know why you're here," she said, once inside. "Don't you have other, more interesting things to do?"

"Not really, no. I have time to kill. The tournament's not for days."

She'd ask if he didn't have any friends, but...she'd heard Gero's recordings. He had no purpose other than killing Goku, so he had no friends.

Gero's recordings...

She tried to remember them. Or the files he'd kept.

Maybe that would give her a clue.

"Stay in here," she said, gesturing to the living room, "I have to go look something up. And have a nap for that matter..."

Cell just nodded, and sat on the sofa. Her cat jumped up next to him, and a second later was in his lap.

Birdie gave a sigh.

One-Punch Man was hardly the worst option he could've chosen...


Cooler took a deep breath as the roads got longer and thinner and the traffic began to decrease.

He'd been flying for about an hour now, and still, the worry hadn't subsided. They could be dead for all he knew. Cell might not go this far out, but he still couldn't be entirely sure until he'd seen them with his own eyes.

They lived on a farm, anyone might come out this way hoping to hide, or steal...who knew.

Open fields and forests became more frequent. And finally, he saw the familiar little town. Two traffic lights, a liquor store, a grocery store, and a few random government buildings and houses.

Not long now.

Then, the cornfield.

When he passed over the barn he moved down to land.

"Mom? Dad?"

Nothing. He walked over toward the house across the small dirt road, and knocked on the storm door.

"Nat! Naaaaaaaaaat!" An older woman's voice sounded off. "Get the gun!"

"Hold your horses, I've got it!"

Merely hearing the two voices was relieving.

The other door opened. There stood Nathan, dressed in his shirt and jeans and carrying a rifle in one hand.

"It's okay, Maria! It's just Cooler."

"It is?!" from somewhere back in the house, he could hear the source of the voice practically running.

Nathan looked up at Cooler. "You've given us quite a fright, boy."

"I'm sorry if I did. I just wanted to check on the two of you."

"Well, come on in, then. We haven't had any trouble, but I'd prefer to be indoors and away from th'windows."

Cooler didn't even get a chance to sit down. The older woman sighted him the second she got down the stairs and ran over.

"You had me worried sick!"

"I'm fine, mother, really. See? No injuries."

"You're sure about that?"

"Yes, I'm sure," Cooler laughed, and returned the hug she gave him a second later. "I came to see if the both of you were fine."

"We're doing good," Maria replied, patting him on the side of the face. "But what about you? You look awful."

"It's been a...long day, is all. So the two of you--no bandits, no sign of Cell?"

"No," Nathan said from behind him, "You'd think with us being far out we'd be seeing at least some extra traffic, but no. Anyone running from him must be heading for other cities instead of into the countryside."

"That's good news. You know--if you want, I could...I can take you somewhere that's a little safer. Around those friends of mine who're stronger, I mean. It'd be a lot better than here."

"And leave the animals alone? No can do," Nathan said, "Not to mention a couple of the horses have been having problems."

"Oh no, please tell me they're not charging the fence and getting out again."

"No, no, nothing like that. It's more of a matter"

"I'm going to go get some tea," Maria said suddenly, "Cooler, you stay right there. You're looking ill and I want you to eat something."

"Mother, that is completely unnecessary. I'm fine!"

"The last time you said you were fine you got pneumonia."

"Tea will be fine. I don't really think I could eat anything right now."

"How about a compromise. I bring you a tomato sandwich. We've got a couple on the window sill I need to get rid of."

"Fine, mother, if you insist."


Birdie had racked her brain and searched the files in the laptop she'd smuggled out of Gero's lab, but to no avail. This odd behavior of Cell's simply couldn't be explained.

She sat on her bed for the longest time, browsing the files and trying to figure it out.

But in the end--nothing.

She lay back, and sighed. Maybe there was no point in trying to figure it out. Maybe he was just that giddy about finding someone else even vaguely like him.

Her eyes shut...

...and what felt like only a second later, they snapped open in surprise.

Cell was standing over her.

Birdie sat bolt upright and backed up a bit. "What are you doing in here? You're not supposed to just come in here without knocking first!"

"I did knock," Cell huffed. "Did you find what you were looking for?"

"No," she yawned. "Not a bit of it. I was trying to check some of the files of Gero's that I still have--the ones on you, for something, but..."

"Why not simply ask me, then?"

"I was trying not to bother you." Slow breaths. He was just standing there, looking down at her. He hadn't budged, but he was still too close.

He was quiet for a moment, and then said, "I'll expect you at the tournament, you know."

"What, why?"

"I think I should have someone in my corner."

"If you want more people in your corner you should...try being friendly with this Son Goku. He seemed like a nice enough guy."

"He wants this fight as much as I do."

"He likes fighting?"

"That's all he wants to do. Get stronger. Fight someone better than him. Well, he's found just the perfect man for that, now, and I intend to have my shot at him."

"You know, if he likes fighting that much, you could opt not to kill people and train with him, or something. Then instead of punching him once you could punch him every day if you wanted."

"What?"

He looked as if the thought had never occurred to him.

"I mean," she said, looking up, "I don't know how strong he is, but if he's strong enough to fight you, then it seems like it would benefit you to fight him more than once."

Pause.

"I already said I was doing the tournament."

And you can have the tournament. Just...propose the idea to him, and see what he thinks."

Birdie could practically see the wheels turning in his head.

She hoped they were turning the right way.

Chapter Text

Get Your Bearings

Cooler's ill looks didn't seem to fade after the tomato sandwich, and so he was pressed to have a cookie as well.

He sat nibbling at it for a few minutes.

Maria was still giving him that look, and he sighed.

He really didn't want to tell them this.

It wasn't the time, or the place.

They joined him at the table, and looked over at him.

"You two really don't need to worry. It's not like it was ages ago, I'm not half dead in the corn."

He regretted saying it instantly--both sets of eyes were suddenly misty.

"I still remember that day, though," Maria said, "There you were, all burned up and nearly gone, and..."

"And then he wasn't," Nathan added, "You gave us a shock, falling out of the sky like a meteorite. And then we find out you're a living, breathing person and we've got to make sure you stay alive."

"Barely." They didn't have to keep him alive--but they had.

He didn't remember a lot about that first day, to be honest. He could barely see at all, much less see straight.

But one thing had stood out.


*20+ years Ago*

Everything hurt.

His lungs, though taking in air, were burning; skin was...what was happening to his skin?

There was a smear of blue light overhead, and through blurry eyes he could tell he was outdoors.

He'd been put onto something, and then moved; later, he felt something soft underneath his body.

Voices, around him, that he couldn't hear clearly.

"...burns...how the hell..."

"...doctor..."

"...in time?"

There was something being pressed to Cooler's lips. Water--water!--trickled over the edge of it, and he drank greedily when the flow increased. He sputtered and cough, however, and the agony in his lungs grew worse.

"...too much..."

When the coughing fit and resulting pain ceased, he tried to reach up.

Again the thing was pressed to his lips, and again he got water. But this time, it was delivered slowly.

It was the most beautiful thing he'd ever tasted, that water. Crisp and clean...

And it was his last thought before he drifted off.

Water...


*Present Day*

"Cooler?"

"What? Sorry...I almost dozed off there, didn't I?"

"I know you're busy and all, but with...everything going on, maybe you should have a nap. We can wake you if anything goes wrong." Maria gave him a smile. "Your room is still up there--it's been changed around a bit but the big bed's still there if you want it."

"No, no, I'm fine, really. Actually, there's something I need to tell you, since I'm here..."


"Uggggh..."

"Is it him?"

"How am I supposed to know?"

"Is what who?" Ginyu groaned and sat up. He wasn't on metal anymore, like he remembered. He was...sitting on the grass.

Capsule Corp. They were back at Capsule Corp.

"Kakorot."

The word came from Goku's own lips, oddly enough.

Then he got closer.

"Kakorot."

"...should I know that name?"

"It's Ginyu, guys!"

"Then...then it worked?" he raised a hand.

It was peachy. A little pale, but still...

Ginyu's hands shot up to his head. Hair. He had hair now!

"Someone get me a mirror!" he said suddenly.

"Here," Bulma pulled a compact out of her pocket, "Use the one in here. It's good stuff though, so don't spill it."

Ginyu took it in his meteor hands, and yet somehow still managed to open the tiny, delicate little thing.

"Eyes...good...nose...I've had worse. Chin? My gods..."

He closed the compact and handed it back to Bulma.

Wow.

Wait 'til Kale sees this...

His eyes widened.

In all his excitement, he'd forgotten about her.

Oh, shit.



"What did you want to tell us, Cooler?"

"Well..." he took a deep breath, "It's just that...it's not easy for me to--"

"Take a deep breath. Is this about that young man you've been seeing?"

"Yes, and no."

He'd already told them about Tien, a few months ago, in fact. His mother had seemed rather jealous when shown a picture, even. It'd been rather funny at the time, and knowing they supported him made it less stressful as well.

They were one thing. But telling them this--it reminded him of how he would have to inform his birth family, and that was utterly terrifying.

His hands were even shaking.

"Calm down, now," Maria said, "And tell us."

"My race is...my race isn't like the human one. Obviously. But there's...there's a few extra differences I never told you about."

"Like what?"

Nathan glanced over. "You're not going to shed a huge skin or anything, are you?"

"No." Cooler laughed at that. "Definitely not. No, this is...we're not solely male or solely female. We're...actually both."

"Both?"

"Yes. Most of us just choose to express as male. Like I have."

"Was this what you were so scared of telling us?" Maria asked. "You're our son. We don't care what bits you have or don't have."

"Partly," Cooler went on, feeling a sense of major relief. "But that's not the only thing. You know I've been seeing Tien for a while--"

"Nice boy," Maria said, "Very nicely built, too."

"Right," Nathan said. "Are you getting married?"

"No. This might push us in that direction, though. Mom. Dad."

One final deep breath.

"I'm pregnant."

Chapter Text

I'll Explain When You're Older

He was more than nervous.

That date was supposed to be his second chance and through a--oh, boy, was he going to be in for it.

Kale had mentioned taking a day off of work for the picnic. It was nearly seven, and she wasn't at home...or if she was, she wasn't answering the door. He'd knocked several times.

As he was turning to leave, the door finally opened.

"Pardon me--" Ginyu stumbled over his words as Samuia appeared in the doorway, holding a white cat with a dark face. "...I--what are you--"

"Who are you, exactly?" she fixed him with a glare, and gave the cat's ears a scratch. "If you're one of Kale's gentleman callers, you're a bit late. She's at work."

"Where does she work?"

"Why should I tell you that? Huh?"

"Maj--look, it's me. Ginyu. Something happened earlier today and I need to find her and apologize."

"Prove it."

He sighed.

One leg, arm crossed over chest, one arm overhead.

"Good," Samuia said. She reached over to a table by the door, and handed him a business card. "She works at this address."

"If I may--" Ginyu said, "What are you doing here, majesty? What about your husband?"

"What about him?" Samuia laughed, "I came here to pay my respects to the pile of ashes that is my mother."

"Why does Kale have your mother's ashes?"

"She says my husband and Frieza didn't want them in their house. Something about being afraid of being haunted. I'd take them, but I have...the same fear, essentially."

"It's not actually happening, is it?" Ginyu glanced past her.

"She says there's been a few isolated incidents, but nothing to show concern. Apparently, it's nice for her to have company of an evening."

"Well...thanks, your majesty."


Ginyu looked at the card the second he was out the door of the building.

A name he knew wasn't hers was written on it, and underneath that was the text Entertainer.

Huh.

Did she work at parties?

Maybe this was just the card of whoever her boss was. It had dark colors, and yet was rather muted in almost every aspect of its design. Even the text looked perfectly average.

On the back, however...

VIP Lounge?

His mind went on trying to figure it out, but something in the back of his mind said he probably didn't want to know.

There was small text in the corner.

Show N' Tail


Cell still wouldn't leave her alone, but at least the chirping, buzzing sounds had stopped.

She'd gone back to give the files a second look, and even with papers on the desk and a flash drive stuck in the computer, Cell was still there.

"What are you looking for?"

"I don't know."

"Is it something I need to be worried about? Perfection--"

"--wouldn't be perfection if it had flaws, I know. I'm merely looking to..." she paused, trying to think of something, before settling on, "See if Gero planted any failsafes in you, for if you went rogue and tried to kill him."

"I'm his perfect creation. Why would he do that?"

"Seventeen and Eighteen tried to kill him. He probably didn't want to risk it with you. And you're even stronger than they are."

The papers were a complete bust.

She was combing through a file from the flash drive when she found something.

I've got to give him a basic framework. Then I can fill in the gaps and do some real genetic tampering. I've chosen the cicada.

Cicada. Alright, that was a start.

I've found that the cicada is most easily modified, at least for what I need it for. I'll modify the female first, and then see if my ideas will hold together.

The female...she'd often wondered if that had meant her. She'd scooped up everything possible when she left, just in case she became ill from all the genetic meddling, but this was just--

Wait. Wait.

"That must mean you," Cell said, pointing at the screen, and unknowingly echoing her thoughts. "When he says 'the female.'"

But, then...

"Why didn't he write your name?"

"I don't know."

"You worked with the man, shouldn't you know his reasoning?"

"I never knew his reasoning," Birdie shook her head, and minimized the file.

She moved to Google, and typed in 'cicada female.'

People also ask...

She looked at the list of questions.

Why do cicadas make so much noise?

That was as good a place to start as any.

Click

"Cicada's claim...song is actually a--"

Oh god.

A mating call.

That noise Cell made was a mating call? But what had prompted that?

It had started at the mall, in the food court.

She opened a new tab.

Cell moved closer, still leaning over. "What's 'mating'?"

"I'll tell you later."

She felt a sweat beginning. This was the last thing she needed right now, for a curious mind to leap forward, eager to see the meaning of that word.

"Why don't you go into the kitchen? I've got--there are a few things you should try."

"Like what?"

"Some of the bottles in the fridge," she said, absently, "Soda's rather good, when you get a taste for it."

"Are you trying to get rid of me, Birdie?" his voice was accusatory, "Because I don't like the sound of that."

"That's not it at all. I'm just--trying to find some answers, is all. You being here, it made me think of, well, things that I hadn't thought of looking for. About myself, I mean, not just you."

"Did you not study the things you took from the lab before?"

"No. Not closely. I thought I would if things went badly for me, maybe." Birdie didn't want to give him any more ideas. He didn't seem to know any of what was going on.

"Fine," he replied, "But I want to know what you know when you're done poking around in facts and figures."

"You just want some attention, don't you?"

"I deserve it, after following you around."

If he were anyone else, that would hurt. But he left all the same, and Birdie turned back to her computer screen.

A sudden urge moved her. Maybe...

Cicada female mating

This lead to links regarding the sound a female cicada would make, to show interest in a male.

A click.

The page in question had an audio file, and she hit play.

It sounded like...

Birdie glanced down at her hand, and snapped her fingers. Then she hit play again.

Oh my god, that's what it was...

Alright. She just had to make sure not to snap her fingers around him, and nothing would result. Everything would be fine.

Deep breathing.

As she moved back into the hall from her living room, she glanced into the kitchen. Cell seemed to be pouring soda into a glass.

Good. Good, it was better than if he'd got hold of wine.

But how would caffeine affect someone like him?

The thought was cut off by a sound.

Knock, knock

"I'll get it," she said suddenly. Thankfully, when she moved to answer the door, Cell didn't go after her.

She opened the door a crack, just enough for the chain-lock to dangle.

It was her father.

She paled.

"Dad, what are you doing here?"

"I came to get you the hell out of here, is what I'm doing."

"You can't just show up like this, he might do anything. I'm handling this fine on my own, really--"

"That's what they all say, and then they end up six feet under."

"You can't threaten him, he'll kill you. And he won't hurt me--"

"Are you sure about that, Birdie?"

She took a deep breath.

She wasn't, really.


Show N' Tail, Gentleman's Club the sign said.

Ginyu had reached the address and was now sorely sorry that he had. This was where she worked?

He took a deep breath and headed on in--ignoring the side-eye that the bouncer at the door gave him.

Well, these kinds of places employed all sorts of people, maybe...

"C'mon, baby bring that ass over here!"

"Oh, now tell me..." came that voice he found so pleasing to the ear, "...why should I?"

A wad of bills was tossed onto the stage.

Kale picked it up, and tucked it into the waistband of her thong. "A good argument, if I ever heard one."

Across the room, in the dark entryway, Ginyu felt confusion of the highest order.

His Kale was...?

She took to the pole in front of the speaker, and began a routine. Her tail was bared to the open air, and twisted and turned along with the rest of her body.

This had to be a mistake.

Chapter Text

My Boy

Cooler took a deep breath.

He'd kept the pregnancy tests he'd taken. All four of them, positive. And now, back in his apartment, he was looking nervously over them.

They'd been so careful. Months they'd been in that Time Chamber, and months the condoms had held out. But then, of course, that one had to break. All it took was that one.

And at first, that had been fine. They'd talked over it and decided the condoms weren't doing well in the Time Chamber, so they wouldn't be risking it. There were other ways to enjoy each other, after all.

But then he'd started feeling ill. Then the cramps in his stomach, and the craving for fish.

The moment they could after leaving the Time Chamber he got the tests, and sure enough...

Telling his Earth family was one thing. But when he thought of telling his brother, his hands shook. Through Frieza, Cold would learn, and that thought was scarier than the actual pregnancy.

"Are you alright?"

Tien's voice sounded off behind him.

"Not really." Cooler stood and went to get a glass of water. "I'm not looking forward to this one bit."

"I thought you wanted to keep it?"

"I do. The part I'm not crazy about is the part where everyone finds out about it."

"They're not going to judge you for anything," Tien said.

"Your--the rest of them might not. My brother, I'm not so sure of. My mother...I don't know how she'd feel about it, to be honest. But my father?"

If he ever had a chance of making that man proud, becoming pregnant by a human would kill that good feeling dead in its track. For an ordinary commoner, this was bad enough, but for a royal--

--it would be more than a scandal. If it had come out he'd have run the risk of being disinherited.

And this was completely different than anything he'd ever done with Salza. That was just sex, that was just something that kept both their sexual orientations private, but satisfied.

This was permanent. From the second he saw that positive result, he wanted to keep this child. And Tien. As...

...as a family.

"Cooler, I think you're worried about nothing."

"No," came the quick reply, "It's not nothing. Even if my brother's perfectly fine with it, it'll get out anyway."

"There's no reason to be scared of your father now."

"You haven't lived with him," Cooler said, "You haven't..."

Another deep breath.

"I can't risk him finding out."

"So you want to keep this a secret?"

"As long as I possibly can."

Tien was frowning; Cooler understood it immediately. Who wanted to be kept a secret?

"I know, I know, you don't like the sound of that. We can figure something out, but--"

"--but what? I might not want to shout from the rooftops that I love you, that we're having a kid, but I want to be able to share good news with my friends if the subject comes up."

"Tien...I know. I understand."

"Do you?"

He went silent, but then started a moment later. "Would you like to meet my Earth family?"

Tien softened a little at that. "I guess we can start there."


"You're a big boy, ain't you?"

Nathan looked up with a raised brow, but stuck out his hand for a handshake.

Tien shook his hand, and gave a little nod. "I try to be."

"What do you do, by the way? He's never told us."

"I run a dojo," Tien replied, "I try to teach good principles to others who wish to learn martial arts."

Maria gave a smile. She had been mostly silent; her time had so far been spent admiring Tien's physique. But finally, she did speak up. "And do they all have your size?"

"Not all. I...spend a lot more time on..."

"You're embarrassing the poor boy, Maria, ease off a bit." Nathan shook his head.

"Are you going to want to have us set a room up here for it too? The baby, I mean."

"Maybe," Cooler replied, "You keep the guest room for me, perhaps just set up a crib in that if you want to."

Tien sat mostly quiet through the rest of the day on the farm. It was hardly what he wanted, but Cooler seemed happy, so...

This would work.

For now.

Chapter Text

The Laws Of Attraction

Birdie stepped out and closed the door.

"I know you think you can handle that thing, but we've all seen what it can do," her father said, "You need to go. Now."

"Dad, I tried that already. He can track me somehow. Probably other people too. I don't know. I just--"

"You can't just stay here entertaining it, either. If he hasn't touched you, he's going to at some point, and I have no intention of letting--"

"I know, dad. I know."

Corvus crossed his arms.

"What else can I do?"

"Birdie, I just..." he sighed, "There's really nothing I can do?"

"No. There's...there's people out there who can defeat him, that are going to fight him at that tournament of his. I just have to wait that long."

"And you're sure about that?"

"Yes."

"You're sure you can fend him off that long?"

"Yes."

He turned around and sighed. "Birdie...I'm going to trust your judgment here. But only briefly."

Briefly.

He was driving away a minute later, and not a few seconds after his car was out of sight, Cell appeared at her front door.

"I heard voices."

"I was talking to myself." She turned to face him. "Look, I--need to go grocery shopping."

"Why do you even buy food?"

"Because that's what people do."

"You could save a lot of money if you stopped doing that."

"Would you mind staying here while I do go shopping, though?"

Cell paused, seeming to consider it. "I suppose I need to finish that book. But if you take too long..."

"You're going to come and find me, aren't you?"

"I'll give you an hour, how about that?"


The routine was done as soon as the men moved on, which was about twenty minutes. And in that time, more money had appeared and was tucked into the waistband of that tiny piece of fabric.

Ginyu stepped forward as she was adjusting the money.

Those dark eyes turned on him and she gave him a grin. "Just a moment there, handsome. I need to make sure this money's not going anywhere."

"Take your time, Kale."

She stopped. "How do you know my name?"

"It's...me. Ginyu me."

"Doesn't look like you," she said, giving him an appraising glance.

"I wanted to come by and explain what happened."

"Aside from you not paying attention again?"

"I have a good reason, I swear."

"Start explaining, then." Kale gave a brief glare.

"But--what about--"

"What about what?"

"Why are you doing this?" he gestured to the pole.

"I like doing it and it's the easiest way I know of to make money. Now you tell me why you weren't there earlier."

"Some...a saiyan showed up, leading some sort of weird army. I went along because...well, something felt wrong. Off. And I thought an extra hand could help."

"And you found a saiyan body?"

"Yes. Goku and the others can confirm it if you want to ask. It's a long story, but essentially...they fought someone who was ready to kill Goku, and..."

"And you stole his body." Kale said.

"If you want to put it that way, I suppose it's true."

"Right."

She sighed. "I'll be off work in an hour and a half. Can you wait until then?"

"Well, yeah, but...Kale, it's just..." Ginyu looked awkward for a minute, before going on, "Aren't you worth more than working here?"

"A job is a job, Ginyu," she said.

"But--"

"Start paying my bills and then you can worry about where I work." She paused, and then spoke again in a calmer tone. "There's a cafe across the street. Go hang out there for a while, maybe have a coffee waiting for me. I'm definitely going to be a bit sleepy."

"Well...okay."

Defeated, he left. There was something in him that was enraged at the sight of her dancing like that, and for other men--he made a mental note to get himself accustomed to this body, and get a good handle on what effects it would have on him.

There was always some little change or the other, some personality quirk that would latch onto him (or, he wondered, was it his personality assimilating the strongest trait of the new body?) and the longer he stayed in one body, the more pronounced it would get. He never got into one without it having some sort of lasting effect. His purple-skinned one had belonged to a soldier with a strong sense of obedience to his superiors, Goku's body had left him thinking only of the next fight, and this body--

--what he knew so far was that the idea of Kale dancing for other men was enraging. It was completely irrational, but he could beat it down with sense. That is my woman, it said, and she's got no business dancing half naked for other men.

But she was her own woman, he told himself a moment later.

That rage passed on, and mellowed out completely by the time he got to the cafe across the street.

This would be fine. He was getting his chance with her again anyway.

Perhaps this body was just an angry one.


Eggs, frozen chicken, canned vegetables, seasonings, deli meat, bread...

...sadly, Birdie had had to steal all of it. Otherwise it would've meant going to the city and ending up with Cell playing traffic cop outside her car window again because she took too long. She left money on one of the registers, though, and so the guilt didn't play up too badly.

She loaded the stuff into her car, and took a deep breath.

Less than a week to go until the tournament. She could make it that long.

He mostly--besides that desire to kill Goku--seemed to want someone to talk to, and she knew what to say to keep him happy. And now, perhaps even more important than knowing what to say, she knew what not to do to provoke any unwanted reactions.

Birdie glanced at her watch. Thirty minutes. Good, that left plenty of time to get back.

Even considering the abandoned cars scattered here and there all over the road.

"Hey, do you have any change?"

The voice came as she was about to get in.

"No, man. I had to take what I did get. No money."

"Not even a quarter-zeni?"

"Not even that. Sorry."

"That's too bad."

Birdie heard a switchblade being activated.

"You don't want to do that."

Just had to discourage the guy, that was all.

"It's either you or me," the guy behind her said, "And I kinda like me. Your car doesn't hurt."

Her tail twitched at the end. The needlepoint expanded and contracted.

He stepped closer, and a styrofoam cup was crushed beneath one of his feet.

Birdie felt the tip of the blade prodding at her back...

...she turned, casting aside her jacket. The needlepoint end of the tail leapt over her shoulder, and hung there.

"Oh, fuck," the guy swore, and dropped the knife, "You're that monster that's--"

She advanced this time, the steel glare not moving from his eyes for even a second.

"Shit--" the guy turned and ran, but she ran after him.

Across the parking lot.

Across the street.

Birdie's heart thundered away in her chest, but there was no second-guessing it.

Scum, that's what he was.

A scavenger, picking at the remains like some disgusting vulture.

She was paying for her bit, at least, but him?

"You can keep your car! I don't want it anymore!"

The shouts were becoming shrieks.

She leapt, with speed she could have sworn she didn't have before, and down he went, her on his back. The needlepoint tail jabbed in just below his right shoulder blade, and--

--her heart began to beat faster. The taste of iron came into her mouth, but more than anything was that exhilaration of ridding the world of one more piece of human garbage.

The sound of a gunshot. A bullet whizzed past her ear, and she looked back, still feeding on the first man.

"Get the hell off him!"

Another, probably with the first.

"I suppose you want my car, too?"

"I want you to get off him and stay the hell away from me." He was shaking, that much was obvious.

"Are you his friend?"

She stood, withdrawing her tail from the body on the ground, and turned to face the other man.

"I am. And--"

"Are you going to kill me?"

"I just might. Take your car, leave you laying in the road, see how you like it."

"Then that makes this a lot easier."

It was easy to slip into this when they deserved it, so very easy.

She took several steps, and the man shot again. There was a brief scream of pain, but as the bullet passed directly through her shoulder, she was able to heal it right up again.

Then she leapt again and the gun was knocked from his hands.

"Do you know what you are?" she sneered, "You're a pig."

The tail jabbed into him. The screams rose...

...and faded into silence.

As her knees slowly fell to touch the asphalt, Birdie began to calm down. Her heart rate began to slow, little by little, but the sweat was still on her brow.

I know it's dangerous doing that, but..., she shook her head, and tried not to look at the clothes beneath her, But he deserved it. It doesn't make me any less of a good person.

Clap, clap, clap...

She looked up.

Seated on an abandoned car was the source of that sound.

Clap, clap, clap...

"That," Cell said brightly, "Is what I like about you, Birdie."

She was still breathing hard. Her tail flicked this way, and then that.

A distraction. She needed a distraction.

"What's that, exactly?"

"That," he said, getting up and striding in her direction, "I've seen you feed before. But hunting, now, that is new."

"That wasn't hunting," Birdie said, rising to her feet. She paused to think, and then accused, "You said you'd give me an hour."

"I decided against it."

That smirk crossed his face again.

"Why did you watch me--?"

"I wanted to see how you worked," Cell said, "And as I said a moment ago...I liked what I saw."

Liked...in what way?

"Dr. Gero spoke of a female, you know," he added, "I never saw her, myself. Not until now. She was made for me, he said."

Creep factor rising. But it was alright.

He didn't know.

Doesn't know.

"But why?" Birdie asked. "Did he ever say why, exactly?"

There were only two possible answers, and neither one was entirely--

The corners of his lips were tugged upward, and those perfectly even white teeth became part of an unsettling, almost predatory, grin.

"I was hoping you would tell me that."

Chapter Text

The Last Volume

Goku knew good and well that it had only been an actual day that he'd been in the Time Chamber.

But only after staying six months in there had he realized that the day they'd chosen was also the day that the new One-Punch Man came out. He kept that quiet--getting Gohan to Super Saiyan was important, of course--but every second was agony.

The second they got home he made sure to tend to the fields before asking Chi-Chi for the money. She handed it over with a little grin.

"As long as you come back and hold to your promise."

"Whatever you say, Chi-Chi!" He was grinning like an idiot as he looked at the money, and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before dashing out the door.

"Is dad okay?" Gohan asked.

"He's fine."

As fine as a desperate fanboy could get, anyway.


Goku had neglected to take the car--he could fly faster anyway--but the town couldn't appear quickly enough on the horizon for his impatience. It was afternoon...he thought. Was he too late?

The bookstore! There it was. It was a big box store in a shopping center, but that hardly mattered. He'd been here for a few of the OPM volumes, but he wondered if this time they'd--

--the display! There it was!

He sped over to it, silly grin growing ever wider...until he realized the display was empty.

No, no, no. That wasn't right. This wasn't fair! He was trying to save the world, and he was getting this as a reward?

"Okay, Goku, stay cool," he said to himself, "Maybe they just haven't put it up yet. Hey, ma'am?"

A passing, somewhat pale and frightened looking employee, glanced up. "Yes, sir?"

"Have you put the One-Punch Man books up yet? The new one?"

"I'm afraid so, sir," she said, "You just missed the last one too."

"None even in the back room?"

"We put them all out when we get them. No time for them to even be in the back. That gentleman unfortunately got the last one." She pointed out the front door, where on the sidewalk, was--

"Cell?!"

The big green bugman was standing to the side of the entrance, studiously reading, oblivious to the scared looks of the people around him.

"I can put one aside for you tomorrow if you pay--"

Goku didn't stay to hear it. He was out the door before she could even finish her sentence.

"What's the big idea buying the last one, Cell?"

"Goku?" Cell looked up. "Well excuse me for actually being here on time. Some people know how supply and demand works."

"Have you even read the others?"

"Have you?" The grin was smug, self-satisfied.

"Yes! I have a whole bookshelf for them. Come on, please, I'll buy it off you--"

"You will, will you?" Cell's evil little grin spread further across his face. "Maybe I don't want to sell it to you."

"Where did you even get the money? You didn't steal it, did you? You didn't kill anyone to get it?"

"You expect such barbarism from me, Goku. I'm insulted. No. I didn't kill anyone or steal it."

Goku took a deep breath. "How far in are you?"

"Why does that matter?" He paused, and seemed to consider a new thought. "You can fly, you know. Go buy it somewhere else."

Cell was barely holding in the laughter. Oh, the look of desperation on that man's face...

"Cell, that's not fair."

"Life isn't fair, Goku. If I have to wait a week until the tournament, maybe you should have to wait for something you want as well."

"But I can go and get it somewhere else. I'm not going to wait." Goku paused, and then asked, "What are you even doing here, anyway? How'd you find out about these things?"

"A little bird told me," Cell said. He was silent for a minute or two, and then closed the book. "There. I'm done."

"Alright, now let me have it." Goku held his hand out, with the zeni bills in them.

"I don't need money, Goku."

There was a pause. He yawned, suddenly bored of this whole exchange. There were other things to figure out, other things to occupy his time. More interesting things.

"And this one's not that good anyway."

"No?"

"Hardly worth the money."

"They're...sometimes they're slow," Goku said.

Cell tossed the manga book in his direction as he turned away. With a wide-eyed grin, Goku caught it.

"I thought you weren't going to--why did you--?"

"Because no one will ever believe you, Goku."

He supposed that was right.

Chapter Text

Blue, Pink, And The Pill

"Awwwwwwwwwwwooooooooo! Welcome back, everyone, I'm Fenrir and this is Five Nights At Freddy's! Yep, we're going old school. Now I know what you're saying, everyone's already gotten to this game by now, you're way behind the times...well you know what, you know you always have time to watch one more guy get scared half to death off a jumpscare!"

Ginyu had been watching this guy for some time, though he had hesitated to watch the FNAF series due to how damn many videos there seemed to be of it.

Fenrir was no Markiplier, that was for sure, but he was funny enough.

"God! If I could just move--nononononono, you stay the hell out in the hallway where you belong!"

It was a guilty pleasure, really, watching people being scared like this.

He'd done it a lot as a soldier, so...

"My usual, Tender."

Ginyu looked up when he heard Kale's voice. She was at the counter until she was given her coffee, and then she spotted him and came over to take a seat.

"I'm going to have some pills for you to take when I have the chance to get hold of them."

"Pills? What pills?"

"July pills. Saiyan mating season pills. Remember? The ones I used to take so I wouldn't be constantly trying to jump you?"

"I thought those were only for women. Well, that and I only thought the season..."

"The women get the desire, yes, but you men..." Kale stifled a laugh. "You men will be constantly ready. As in putting your pants on the wrong way will give you a boner, kind of ready."

"And the pills will help with that?"

"The pills will heavily suppress your libido, yes. Though, considering your personality..."

"If I don't have to take them, I won't," Ginyu replied, "I believe in my ability to control my own body."

"Suit yourself. I'm still ordering some."

There was a pause, brief and awkward.

"So," Kale said suddenly, "I know you're going to tell me you have objections as to why I strip. Go ahead and let's get this over with."

"Why do you do it? It's...the way those men looked at you..."

"That's how I make money. I don't care about them."

"Then why flirt?"

"Because it gets money out of their wallets. I could be doing other things. It's a big city, and I'm good at it, so I can make bank working only a few days a week. How else do you think I could afford to live in that swanky building Frieza lives in?"

There was an awkward silence, and both of them nursed their cups for a few minutes.

"So, what's this I hear about Frieza having a baby shower?"


"This is really unnecessary."

He hadn't intended to have this happen, and certainly didn't want quite this much attention on the egg, this soon after he'd left the Time Chamber.

But still, it had happened.

A baby shower. The egg, in its incubator, was front and center and had been draped in a variety of gender-neutral colored ribbons, along with a series of red ones to emphasize its own color.

"Kuriza, then," Chi-Chi said, from her seat, "It's an adorable name."

"I know, we came up with it together," Maron said, "A combination of both our names, you could say."

"How long will it take to hatch?"

"Four to six months," Frieza replied. "And yes, I know that is vague, but one can never really tell with Arcosian eggs."

"You'd think it would be more uniform," Maron added. "Because this means we'll be on alert for about two months."

"It's beautiful, you know." Samuia sat on one side of the egg, and smiled, looking down at it, "I remember when you were still an egg. I hardly wanted to let go of you."

Frieza said nothing, and picked up his waiting glass of wine.

"And it's red. We haven't seen a red one in the family for some time," Floe replied.

"Is it a rare color overall?" Maron asked.

"Well, not entirely, but the royal family usually favor the, well, colder colors. Purple, blue, that sort of thing."

"Which is what I hope the room will look like," Frieza replied, "It would be nice if I didn't walk into a decorative bloodbath whenever I go into my child's room."

"I promise that's not what we did," Maron said, "We've got better sense than that."

There came a belated knock at the door, and Frieza glancing up, raised his voice. "Enter!"

Cooler stepped in, carrying a wrapped gift, which he added to the large pile on the kitchen table.

"Sorry I'm late," He replied in a quiet tone, "Work again."

"Have some wine, you look awful." Frieza said. "It's in the usual place."

"No thank you," Cooler shook his head. "Tell me, when are you going to get to the gifts? I'd hate to see a nice table like that collapse under a weight almost as big as your ego."

"Say whatever you want, you're not ruining today for me."

"I thought you wouldn't want a party like this."

"Maybe I've changed my mind," Frieza replied.

"You two stop, alright?" Floe snapped, "Before this turns into a fist-fight."

"We're merely having a friendly--"

"And we all know where your friendly arguments lead. Broken things and high repair bills."

"Tell me about it." From her seat, Bulma laughed. "They react to each other like Vegeta to Goku--eventually there will be violence."

"Can't we just have a nice time?" Samuia piped up. "You know, calm down and not argue at all?"

"Fine," Frieza said.

"I will if he will," Cooler added.

"Good. Now, let's get on those gifts..."

Chapter Text

Blue, Pink And the Pill Pt. 2

"Why aren't you there?" Kale asked, glancing up at Ginyu. It was the day after their talk at the coffee shop, and they were in the elevator and on their way to her apartment.

"Oh...I just had a lot to do today, and it's such a private occasion. My series is set to get renewed and they wanted me at the studio to film for extras."

"Extras?"

"Something about bonus featurettes. I don't know." Ginyu shrugged.

"Probably something for the online viewing, who knows." Kale shrugged.

The elevator doors opened.

"Look," she said suddenly, "There's something I didn't tell you about."

"You don't have a roommate, do you?"

"No, no, it's not that." They stepped out of the elevator and Kale lead the way down the hall.

"Then what is it? I already know you have a cat."

Keys. Door open.

"Come on in."

It was neat, Ginyu thought. Neat, orderly, and...not something he'd expect of her. Her quarters had some organization, but never quite reached his standards. Not that he'd ever told her that, of course.

"Nice place," he said.

"Have a seat."

He started to walk over to the nearest easy chair, but stopped suddenly short and turned quickly around.

"What?" Kale had seen it as she was closing the door behind her. "Something wrong?"

"No, it's--I mean, I don't think..."

He paled again a second later.

"Ginyu, tell me."

"Something just grabbed my ass."

Kale sighed, and facepalmed before speaking up. "I was afraid she'd do this."

"What? Who?"

"Brumal, you need to stop. He's not a fling."

A pause.

"It happened again. And who's Brumal?"

"...Frieza's grandmother."

"But she's at the baby shower!"

"The other one, Ginyu."

"She's dead!"

Kale couldn't help but laugh when Ginyu turned round in surprise again, and slipped both hands over his ass. His new hair whipped wildly around with him, and Kale felt a sudden burst of cool air.

"She also likes you."

The odd sense of random pleasure that had popped suddenly up told her that. Brumal was more than pleased with this man of hers.

"Brumal, it's Ginyu. Captain Ginyu."

Maybe that would dissuade her.

"Tell her to stop!"

Or maybe it wouldn't.


"And I'm telling you, Goku doted so much on me when I was pregnant with Gohan. It was completely adorable," Chi-Chi gave a little grin. "I bet Maron was the same way with you."

"The bigger the egg got, the less she seemed to want me to do," Frieza replied, "Which is absurd. I've been cut in half before, I think I can stand a little extra work while heavily pregnant."

"Bullshit," Maron replied, "Getting four to five hours of overtime six days in a row is not a little extra work."

"It's office work, Maron."

"You weren't getting enough sleep. I didn't want you working yourself into a miscarriage."

"But he's fine now," Bulma spoke up suddenly, "Right?"

"Right. Your father told me to ease up and I did."

"I can't believe you let these humans push you around like that," Floe said, "But at the same time, I agree with the sentiment. You're meant to take it a little easier when you're pregnant, you know."

"Listen to the woman," Bulma said, "Seriously."

There was an awkward silence. Several of them took sips of wine, but Bulma, not liking the quiet moment, spoke up again.

"I've got a great game we can play."

"A game?" Floe asked. "Oh, a party game, I imagine. What sorts of those do you Earth people have?"

"Well, one I used a lot was Most Interesting Person," Bulma replied, "Here's how it goes. We all write down two things--one everyone knows about us, and one that either nobody knows about us or would find unlikely--and the fun comes in trying to match all the unlikely stuff."

"Oh, that does sound like fun."

Everyone else seemed to agree, so Maron grabbed a legal pad, a bundle of pencils, and gave everyone a sheet of paper.

"You sure you want to participate?" she asked Frieza. "I mean, you don't tend to like these games."

"I'm in a good mood today."

"Count me out," Cooler said, "I'm not one for games like this."

"What secrets could you possibly have that we don't already know?" Frieza asked. "Did you buy a cinnamon roll instead of your usual plain bread? I suppose you'd think that would be scandalous."

"If I did, it's none of your business."

Cooler went quiet then, and with a hand on his stomach walked off in the direction of the bathroom.

Then there was silence. Maron grabbed a jar for everyone to put their papers in once they were done with them. Ten minutes later, everyone was.

"Alright," Bulma said, "Now how this works is, we pull out two at a time."

She reached down and plucked two folded bits of paper from the jar, and unfolded them.

"Well?" Floe asked.

"Alright, this first one says, 'I'm a widow' and the other one says, 'My father is a King.; Well that's not too helpful, we have two of you here that would fit."

"I think it's Frieza," Floe replied, "Only he would have the audacity to write that."

"She asked for a fact," Frieza said, "And she got one. And on that note I'm fairly certain you're the widow here."

"You're right on that."

The papers were placed in front of them on the table, and Bulma reached into the jar again.

"Alright...let's see....this first one says, 'I was born in a phone booth' and the other one... 'My mother's hair is out of a bottle.'"

"That second one's you, Maron," Frieza couldn't stop his laughter there, "That's a fairly obvious one for you. But the phone booth? Who the hell's is that?"

"Not mine," Maron said, "I can assure you my mother would rather have died than given birth in a phone booth."

"And neither was I," Chi-Chi replied.

After a few minutes of silence, all eyes turned to Bulma.

"Really? Ms. Heiress was born in a phone booth?" Chi-Chi asked.

"It was a very big phone booth," Bulma said, "At least, that's what my father tells me. He never said more than that."

"Who the hell delivered you?"

"He tells me it was a friend of my mother's," Bulma shrugged. "My mother says he was a weird sort in a hat and scarf, and doesn't seem to remember him very well."

"So it's not just you with the weird friends," Chi-Chi replied, "It's your whole family."

"Right you are."

"Alright, off that subject," Bulma went on. "Next drawing up!"

Two more pieces of paper. Both unfolded.

"Well this is...strange..."

"What, Bulma?"

"They both say, 'I lost my virginity to Son Goku.' I know damn well I didn't write that, because it never happened."

"Well, one of them is mine," Chi-Chi said.

"Obviously. But..."

"Well, it certainly wasn't me," Floe piped up.

There was heated deliberation for several minutes, with more than one accusation leveled at Bulma--until they all noticed that Frieza wasn't joining in.

In fact, he was busy draining his glass of wine.

"No..."

"There's no way he actually..."

"It's not what you think," Frieza spoke the moment his glass was down.

"Explain. Now." Chi-Chi's anger shifted rapidly, and her glare was settled firmly on him.

"It happened on Namek," he went on, "When he was fighting me, you understand."

"And?"

"I may have received more than one punch in the gut. And it may have...ruptured something."

Floe tried not to look disgusted, but the whole subject was abhorrent. She looked away from this discussion, and noted that Cooler was coming out of the bathroom and heading for the kitchen.

"Oh...I was thinking that maybe he'd gone a bit feral with super saiyan, and--" Chi-Chi started, but was cut off.

"No. That is not what happened."

"Either way," Floe said, "I don't want to hear any more about this. Have fun guessing my unlikely one."


Sick. Sick.

He could barely keep the food he'd eaten down, and he hadn't even eaten that much.

Water. Yes, he needed some water.

"Cooler?"

Floe had appeared in the kitchen, and he looked up, surprised.

"Oh--grandmother. Hello. I'm sorry, I...I haven't felt well today."

"No? Is that why you're passing up wine?"

"...yes."

"And not eating? I don't want you to become all skin and bones, you know. You're the good grandson."

"I've tried to eat, but if I do it too fast...I just get sick again."

"Perhaps break down your meals over the day. I've heard that can help."

"I'll...I'll try that. Thank you."

Still wasn't looking at her. Still couldn't look at her. Along with the vomiting had come a wave of anxiety and paranoia, and he was already worried about disappointing--

"But still, I want to know something."

"...a...and what is that?"

Floe walked over to him, and looked him dead in the eye.

"How far along are you?"

Chapter Text

Blue, Pink, And The Pill Pt. 3

"So she's...been haunting you." Ginyu sat down, eyebrow raised.

"Since I brought her home."

"How did she...how did you talk to her?"

"When I first brought her home, I was...having a lot of, well, flings..." Kale said, "And I kept hearing voices. Little insults, you know. Slut, whore...etc."

"How'd you figure out it was her? I mean...she's dead."

"When 'slut' got written in the fog on my bathroom mirror after a shower and no one else was here at the time."

"How did you...work things out?"

"I got a few devices with batteries, told her to drain the power as she saw fit, and I got one of those ghost-word devices. It has a dictionary in it, and they can select words."

"And then?"

"It took a few months, but...well, we figured out how to talk. That, or she's been sapping my energy or something to manifest in different ways. I have no idea, honestly."

"And how did you strike this peace with her?"

"I told her she was dead and they didn't want her back. Turns out death is lonely. I promised her she could stay and watch--she seems to like doing that--and maybe get in a few gropes if she promised to behave."

"I thought she was more prudish than that." Ginyu was momentarily puzzled. He had only met the woman once or twice, but this didn't sound like something she'd do. Her reputation for propriety and modesty was legendary, after all.

"She's dead, and I guess she figured there are no consequences for being a pervert now. Don't ask me, I don't know. It satisfied her. But...on that topic..."

"If you're about to ask me--"

"No," Kale replied, "I'm not. I was going to ask how you're planning to deal with July."

"You said I would just be erect a lot. It doesn't sound like there will be that much of a problem. I can just keep icepacks around, or something like that."

"And stay away from me."

"What, why?"

Kale shook her head. "You'll just be erect a lot--unless you're around a female saiyan."

"What will that trigger?"

"I'll be in my heat," Kale replied, "So catching my scent while I'm in the middle of it would prompt you to enter what's called a 'rut.' You're going to want to mate now."

"Kale, I'll be fine. You know me, I can control my urges."

"You don't know what you're up against with this body, Ginyu," Kale said, "I know you don't like to lose control, so I'm trying to save you from something that could prompt that."

"I'll be fine. You can stop worrying."

If he insisted...

Maybe it was really all worrying for nothing. He was Captain Ginyu, after all. Him losing control because of any sexual desire was just not in his general character.


"Alright...last two..."

Bulma drew them out. "Alright, one is, 'I'm one of the richest people on the planet--"

"You, obviously," Frieza said. He was in the middle of unwrapping what looked like a bottle warmer.

"--and the other one--"

Bulma stopped cold.

"What, what is it?"

"Well...this, ah..."

"Go ahead," Samuia said from the direction of the gift table.

"It says, 'my sons have different fathers.'"

Silence.

"That's got to be your grandmother's," Bulma says, "We've matched everyone else."

"It can't be real," Frieza replied. "I assume she's having another of her jokes. My uncle and father must both be my grandfather's children, else it would have been found out by now."

"Right...well...how about we move on?"


"Two months, huh?" Floe looked Cooler up and down. "Are you taking care of yourself?"

"Yes. I am. Vitamins, the extra Arcosian supplements, all of that."

"Would you mind telling me why you haven't told me already?"

"It's Frieza's baby shower, and you know me. I don't steal his thunder."

"Cooler," Floe said sharply, "Before now. Why didn't you tell me before now?"

"I don't want my family to know," Cooler replied, "You know what my father would say."

"I know exactly what that little deviant would say," Floe crossed her arms, "Oh, you're disgracing the people, the blood...or something like that."

Cooler looked away.

"Now listen to me, boy," Floe went on, "I can understand that fear, myself, and I want you to know you can keep me updated. You can trust me on this. I won't tell him if you let me be a part of it."

"Why would you keep my secret?"

"Because I have a similar secret. Only one of my sons is a pureblooded Arcosian. Luck was on my side, that the one in question was born Arcosian-presenting. You think you're the only one ever tempted by a mammal in this family? That you certainly are not."

Cooler stopped. She couldn't possibly be serious. "Which one--?"

"I don't think that really matters, now does it? The kingdom is being well run now, and that's all that matters. Now tell me--who is the father?"

Deep breath. With shaky hands, Cooler got his phone out, and showed the picture to his grandmother.

"Well, well! You certainly have good taste. But is he buff and smart?"

"A thousand times, yes. He's a martial arts master, and he's...he's intelligent, he's calm, he's..."

"Is he good to you?"

"Yes. He's never once complained about who I am or was, he encourages me to be better, to improve--"

"He has three eyes, but I doubt that is of any importance."

"You barely notice them after a while. But it's not his eyes I pay that much attention to."

"A better lover than a looker?"

Cooler's hands had stopped shaking by this point, but his shock most certainly hadn't halted.

"Grandmother!"

"What? Does he keep you warm, or doesn't he?"

Despite the inappropriate questions, Cooler was at last beginning to calm down. His nausea wasn't subsiding, but at least...at least he could relax.

For now.

Chapter Text

Many Meetings

*Five Years Ago*

"It's time for the weekly feeding, Birdie."

Birdie rolled up her sleeve, and Gero stuck the IV into the vein in her arm.

"Doctor," she said quietly, "I was looking over the subject's DNA data this morning."

"And?" The process was started; and her blood was slowly drawn into a vial.

"I was doing as you asked, checking for errors or failings, and I noticed something odd. There's--there's a kill switch of sorts."

"I put it there. That's nothing to worry about."

"Why would you put a kill switch in your perfect creation?" she looked up.

"Do I look like a fool, Ms. Hawkins? He has genetics of many people, most of whom would jump to violence as the first option, and all of whom are extremely willful. That spells a recipe for rebellion, even more so than Seventeen and Eighteen."

"You can always regrow him, I suppose, after this...Son Goku...is dead. Make him more malleable and open to suggestion. But you've doubtlessly already thought of that."

"Of course."

"What are the conditions of the kill switch?"

Gero went off on a long lecture about the specifics, about the process, but what it boiled down to was that when Son Goku died, so would Cell. He had hard-wired it into the dynamic DNA--and that was the part that gave Birdie pause, how could Gero hardwire anything into what is meant to be dynamic?--and once Cell and Goku were gone, he could proceed with the new creations.

The blood was drawn, and given to the bobbing fetus behind the glass.

She watched it, and started taking notes on the machine's readouts.


*Present Day*

"Was it really necessary to let that reporter go?" Cell asked.

"He's going to tell your story," Birdie replied, "They're going to be talking about you even more than before. Isn't that what you wanted? For them to know you?"

Cell went momentarily quiet.

"You know I'm right."

Still silent.

They both looked up as a car appeared in the distance, and grew closer.

"Goku?" she questioned.

"Goku doesn't drive," Cell replied evenly.

The car was beside the arena less than a minute later, and the door opened. Birdie recognized him instantly, as anyone in the media industry (or vaguely interested in sporting events) would without help. Hercule Satan, the current martial arts champion of the world, and all-around well-liked fighting icon.

Mr. Satan got out of the car, and stepped into the ring--then turned, and gestured towards the cliff. Down came a reporter and cameraman, both of whom made a beeline for Satan.

"Mr Satan! Sir! What do you have to say to your adoring public?"

Birdie glanced at Cell; both ignored the blustering.

"...vile, wretched, contemptible..."

Cell, still half facing Birdie, extended his tail, nodded at her, and gestured at Satan.

She was almost tempted to laugh.

"Satan gotcher tongue?"

Cell pulled his tail back, and turned back toward the man he'd been ignoring. "Are you sure about this?"

Birdie glanced about as Cell made his scathing reply, and an approaching figure in the sky. Son Goku? No. No, this one was shorter, and had different hair.

Wait, she recognized him from the photographs Gero had kept. What was his name again?

He landed, and she studied him--and he gave her a glare before looking back toward Cell.

"Not going to say anything, Vegeta? Am I going to get to fight you?"

Silence.

"I see that at the very least, you've learned to wait for Go--"

"--ku." A short distance away, Android Sixteen landed.

Birdie looked up. Him, she remembered him! "Sixteen?"

The android looked in her direction.

"You likely don't remember me, but I...I helped to finish work on you. Are you--functioning well?"

"Thanks to the work of Ms. Briefs," came the stoic reply.

"Are you here to...fight Cell?"

"Goku." Sixteen turned away, "He's here."

Goku landed. Then Gohan, Trunks, Piccolo, Frieza, Cooler, King Cold and the others.

Birdie looked over at them curiously, but still somewhat fearfully. This Son Goku had sounded nice enough when she'd seen him, but the others...

Who were they?

Krillin looked over at her, "Birdie, I'm assuming?"

"Yes. Uh...nice to meet you?"

"And who's this supposed to be?"

She didn't see who'd said it, but she replied anyway. "I'm...Birdie Hawkins. One of Gero's...creations, you could say."

"ANOTHER ONE!" came Vegeta's voice, "Yet another android. How many more are there? Are you hiding any more in a lab?"

"No, there aren't any more." That she was aware of, but given how angry this guy seemed, she didn't want to voice that particular uncertainty.

"...already contributed more than Vegeta." Cell finished what he was saying to Yamcha, and then turned back toward Goku. "Now if you'd all stop with the chatter, I believe you're here to see me."

"Oh, I know. I've been looking forward to it all week!" Goku grinned widely, and hopped into the ring.

"H-hey! Wait a minute!" Satan shoved his way past the cameraman, "I was here first! I'm the World Martial Arts Tournament, and I am going to defeat Cell."

"You're the champion?" Goku moved right back out of the arena. "Then you get to go first."

"Are you serious?" Piccolo asked.

"Yes! He's the champion. So he goes first. And if he takes care of Cell, then we've got nothing to worry about."

"Not that YOU would worry."

"No, just sad. If he beats Cell, I won't have been able to fight him..."

There was a sigh.

"Well, then," Satan said, "I think it's time to--"

BOOM

Everyone looked up.

"Pardon me. I was just preventing someone else from interrupting the fight," Cell said, as bits of twisted pink metal and glass fell down around the arena. "Proceed."

Satan stepped forward.

"And you're actually going to fight me, lovely. I could use an appetizer."

"I'm not only going to fight you, I'm going to end the fight." Satan lifted his clenched fist, "In one hit. Now what do you think of that?"

Silence.

Cell was done.

More than done.

Satan was blustering again, but it was hardly heard. When he charged--

--Cell struck, and the oversized man went flying straight into a mountain.

There were broken bones, there had to be, and yet...and yet there Satan came, trudging back to the ring with blood all over his face. He didn't look like he'd broken a thing.

"How did he survive that?" Frieza spoke up.

"He's not strong enough to do so. There's no reason for him to have done so," King Cold added. "Are we sure he's entirely human?"

As this debate went on, Goku approached Cell.

"You've no idea how long I've waited for this," Goku said.

"You're ready, then?" Cell smirked.

"More than ready."

"Wouldn't you rather send everyone else in first, and then come in to save them? Let the pattern hold true?"

"I mean, if you'd like to fight someone else, you've only got to say--"

"No. No. I mean to fight you today, Goku."

There was a pause, and then--

Flaring auras crackled, rocks began rising, and the world melted away.

"Are you going to stand there all day?" Cell asked, "Or are you going to punch me?"

"You think I came here to do something else?"

Goku launched at him, there was a crack as their fists met, and then Cell tossed him across the ring. But Goku flew right back and--

"Through him?" Birdie asked, looking at the others, "How can he go through him like that?"

"You aren't much of a fighter, are you?" Yamcha asked.

"No. No, I'm not."

"How did you even--"

"Nicky Town. Cell comes rampaging through and--"

"The radio station," Krillin said, "Right?"

"...right. The sooner this fight is over, the better." Birdie's tail twitched as she spoke, and to stop it she coiled it around one leg.

"NERD!"

She looked up. Cell had--there were four of him. Why in the hell were there four of him?!

All four rushed Goku at once. After deflecting a few of their hits, he rushed skyward, and the Cells all followed. Each was still trying to land his separate hits, and each found them all missing.

"You know better than that, Cell, stop playing around!"

Goku sounded almost a little sad when he said that, and perhaps because of that, was quick in dispatching the four Cells, all of whom found themselves unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the ring.

A few seconds later, only one Cell remained.

After a moment's rest, he rose to his feet and charged at Goku again.

"Come on, you can hit harder than that!" Goku laughed when he deflected Cell's strike.

There was a growl and the fight got too fast to follow.

"So is he really the only one of you that's going to--"

"Yes," someone said sharply.

Overhead, everyone could suddenly see Goku and Cell again.

"What are they saying?" Birdie asked.

"Nothing important." Piccolo muttered.

He could hear the talk going on high above, and it was...less than comforting.

"...you didn't have to go this far. I just wanted to fight you. I would have done it even without you calling it a tournament."

"You have such simple pleasures, Goku."

"That's what everyone says," Goku replied, "I just want to fight. Not even Vegeta understands, not the way--"

"--that I do?"

There was a pause.

"You know..." Cell said, "It was suggested to me a few days ago that you would fight me every day, if it was possible."

Goku's eyes were shining with excitement. "I would. It's--no one, and I mean no one, can keep up with me. I mean--Vegeta fights me now and again, but he just doesn't..."

"He doesn't do it for the joy of it, does he?"

"He just wants to be stronger than me. He doesn't enjoy it like I do, he doesn't get the thrills out of it." Goku looked almost sad for a moment. "And Frieza...he's so strong, but I practically have to beg him to fight me, I don't think he'd do it at all if I didn't bother him!"

"You're alone," Cell said, "Gods, how I know the feeling."

"And I'll be alone again, because you're going to force me to kill you," Goku replied. "That's the worst part."

There was silence, but only for a moment.

"What if I--"

Down below, among the crowd, Piccolo was cursing.

"If you're going to shout, at least tell us why," Tien said, "What are they saying?"

"Goku is negotiating with him!" Piccolo growled.

"For what, exactly?"

"He wants to fight Cell so badly that he's willing to just take a gamble on all our--"

"He's giving him another chance, isn't he?" Frieza spoke up suddenly.

"Yes--" Piccolo stopped, "How did you know?"

"If I know anything about that monkey, it's his willingness to keep leaving doors open for people long past the point it's wise to do so."

"And?"

"And if he persists in this, and it works--"

"It won't work, Cell's too far gone for that."

"Is he?" Frieza asked, "Is he really?"

Piccolo glanced to the side. "It pains me to say this, but he has a point."

The silence that followed was more than uncomfortable. They all knew that since Goku had succeeded with Frieza, he would likely double down with Cell, who was evil enough. But Frieza had been even more so...

"If things go south, I will get rid of the bug." Frieza ended the silence, "I spent a day in that forsaken chamber and it was very enlightening."

Far above them, Goku was grinning.

"I thought I was going to have to have Gohan fight you," he said.

"Gohan? Fight me?" Cell laughed, "You must be joking. It wouldn't be a very sporting fight, you know..."

"He needs a little push," Goku replied, "He's always been like that. He doesn't enjoy it quite the same way I do, but I know he would if he'd just...let go."

"And I suppose you want me to prompt him to do that for you?"

"GOKU, I SWEAR TO KAMI!" Piccolo was now outwardly shouting, and his voice carried all the way up to where the discussion was going on, "IF YOU DON'T IMMEDIATELY RETRACT THAT, I'LL DO IT FOR YOU!"

"But Piccolo, Gohan is--"

Silence.

Goku and Cell drifted downward, and Cell looked up in Gohan's direction. "Make him angry, huh?"

"If he did, he'd be a better fight than any you'd have gotten out of me today."

"Dad, wh-what are you--" Gohan stammered, hardly able to believe what Piccolo was relaying.

Goku had negotiated with Cell, Cell seemed perfectly willing to come away from this, sans any more violence...

...and yet Goku was pointed that demented thing right at him.

"Dad, I thought--"

"Goku," Piccolo was snarling now, "You got what you wanted. Why in the hell do you want to drag Gohan into this?!"

"I just want him to be a better warrior!"

Gohan stood stone still.

Piccolo, everyone around him, they were all talking, but he wasn't hearing it.

All that reached his ears were those words from his father.

Red anger.

Tears were flowing liberally from Gohan's eyes as he moved in his own silent world down to the arena, down to where his father stood next to Cell.

"...just want to unlock your potential..."

Still crying, Gohan found himself facing Cell. Goku was still talking, but he only heard bits of it.

"...stronger than ever before..."

"I wanted to fight for you," he said, voice suddenly flat, "Because you liked fighting, because I wanted to be like you, because..."

Gohan stopped and looked briefly at Goku.

"But I'm not you. I never will be. And that's not enough for you."

Back to Cell.

"It's never enough."

"Gohan, I never meant it like that!"

"That's how it felt." Gohan clenched his fist. "But if you want me to snap...if you really want to see me fight with everything..."

It was as easy as going through a door. And when he spoke again, his voice was ice cold.

"Then that's what I'll do."

He started powering up--and up, and up--aura flared and crackled in terrible bolts around him, chunks of the arena began to crack and float up.

"Go back there with the others," Gohan said, glancing briefly back at Goku.

"Goh--"

"Now."

Goku drifted back, but kept his eyes on the two of them. That something in Gohan's voice...

...maybe he had gone too far this time.

"He doesn't understand," Gohan said, looking up at Cell, "None of them do. None of them know what's in my head--my father, least of all."

"A fighter?" Cell suggested.

"A murderer."

Silence.

"It's only ever been things that didn't matter to me, or things that deserved it," Gohan replied, "Trees, mountains...Frieza. But you know what they say, give them an inch and they'll take a mile. Today, it's you, tomorrow--who knows. And that, the blackout, the blood, that's what I've always been afraid of."

"You've only gotten stronger," Cell said, "I see no reason for you to--"

"Gotten stronger...or stopped caring about one life?" Gohan floated off the ground, tone still arctic. "But isn't that how they all start?"

He rushed forward, striking Cell so hard he went soaring into the sky. There was a ki blast a second later, countered only just barely by one of Cell's own.

Back on the cliffside where everyone had moved, Goku was landing.

"I hope you're happy," Piccolo said, "Look at him. Look at what you just did to him!"

"I only wanted to help him!"

"According to whose standards?! He doesn't hunger for battle like you. He never did--and he only went into the Time Chamber with you because he wanted your attention!"

"And to save the world."

"That is YOUR job."

"Piccolo, I--look, it's more than that! I'm not going to be around forever, eventually I'll die and not come back. And when that happens, someone has to keep the Earth safe."

"Let that be the future's problem. Until then, you need to get off that warrior high horse you're on and actually give a damn about your own flesh and blood!"

"I DO care about Gohan!"

"Have you told HIM that?" Piccolo spat.

"He..."

Goku stopped.

Hadn't he?

Silence.

Cell fought back, but it was clear from Gohan's speed that the big bug was outclassed. One punch, then another, a ki blast, a series of them...

Everyone watched as Gohan struck again, and again, and again, until blood was trickling from Cell's white lips, until his shoulders were heaving with every breath.

"Gohan, it's time to stop."

To everyone's surprise, it was Frieza that spoke up.

"Gohan. Stop. You've gotten what you wanted out of this. He's agreed to comply, and you've worn your anger out."

There was a pause...but only for a second.

"Question, Frieza. Back on Namek...how many kidney shots did you give Vegeta?"

"I can't recall. Why?"

"I just wanted to know the figure to go over. I don't know if Cell has kidneys, but I thought it was a good area, considering the sounds Vegeta made."

Cell was dropped to the ground in a bloodied heap--still moving, still very much alive, but in horrible pain.

"I do in fact h--"

Gohan kicked Cell onto his back. Then kicked him again--in the kidney area. There was a scream.

Then another. And another.

Gohan kept going until long after Cell had passed out, but he didn't notice Cell was out for even longer than that.

But when he did, he glanced down at the purple blood on his shoe, and knelt down beside the unmoving body.

A hard slap in the face. Cell woke, groaning in agony.

"You're strong," Gohan said.

Crackling sounds.

Cell was turned on his side. A second later, there was another scream. Gohan had ripped off one of his elytra.

"You'll live."

Purple blood was beginning to pool, but Gohan paid it no mind, and ripped the other one off.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

"But you'll stay scared, won't you?"

No answer. Cell could barely focus, much less--

"Answer me!" Gohan pulled Cell into a sitting position by his crown, and glared right into his red eyes. "You'll stay scared! WON'T. YOU."

Choke. Cough. Trickling of blood.

"Yes."

Cell was released, and fell painfully back to the ground.

Everyone approached, cautiously.

Gohan's whole body felt heavy, and his legs threatened to give out as he stood up. He saw them approaching, then when he saw Piccolo, took a step in his direction.

And then he fell.

Chapter Text

Return To Normal

Cell was given a senzu bean, and given a few minutes to regenerate from the injuries Gohan had inflicted on him. Gohan, also, was given a bean, and once up looked directly at Cell.

"This is what you're going to do," he said in a cold voice, "In the interest of not drawing attention to ourselves, we're going to tell that Mr. Satan over there that he gets to deal the final blow. You're going to fall down at the first punch, admit defeat, and he's going to generously offer to show mercy if you agree to not do evil again."

"I--"

"Have I made myself clear?" Gohan's insane anger was fading, but he still looked more than capable of tearing Cell apart.

"...yes."

Cell didn't look at him. Couldn't look at him.


It was all done fairly quickly, and before they knew it, everyone was up on Kami's Lookout--with Cell, of course, keeping a healthy distance from Gohan.

The wishes were made--to revive everyone Cell had killed in the last week and a half, and to make everyone barring those on the lookout forget about the androids, and Cell--with the minor exception, of course, of his challenge and subsequent "fight" with Satan.

"So now, Goku," Piccolo said, "What do we do with him? Wanting someone to fight is one thing, but in case you FORGOT, he's threatened to destroy the world."

"Frieza did it, too!"

"You had already changed Frieza's mind. He doesn't count. How are we supposed to keep an eye on him?"

"I'll do it."

Birdie surprised herself, speaking up like that, but she'd done it.

"He already knows me well enough, and he's got a lot of questions that...well, I could probably answer, to be honest. I can watch him."

"And who's going to watch you?" Frieza's tone was...hard to place, but everyone gave him the side-eye anyway. "In any case, you can hardly keep your eyes on him all day. You have a job, after all."

"I can do that!" Goku said. "Just give me a call when you head in, and I'll keep him plenty busy!"

"And you're not going to--" Piccolo turned back to Cell, who shook his head.

"He knows better, Mr. Piccolo," Gohan spoke up quietly.

That was when Cell turned to Birdie, and muttered, "Can we go now?"


"I think something's wrong with Gohan."

Chi-Chi was talking to Piccolo, who was avoiding her gaze.

"It's been...a few days, Piccolo, and he won't even look at his father."

"He's been angry before," came the reply, "He'll...come back around soon enough."

"Will he? I've never seen him like this before. It used to be that he wanted to spend time with Goku, and now..."

"It's only been a few days, Chi-Chi," Piccolo spoke as softly as he could as he tried to reassure her, "Give it time. It's not the end of the world because he doesn't want to speak to his father for a short while."

"I hope you're right," she said, "Goku keeps saying he wants to make it up to him."

"He'll get his chance."

It was a half-truth. He was certain that Gohan would calm down at least enough to speak to his father civilly. But whether Goku would make the most of this next in the line of MANY second chances, he was unsure.

Until that point...

Piccolo took a deep breath and left the Son House. He moved into flight, at the level of Gohan's window. The boy saw him, gave a small smile, and waved.

"Kid's turned me into an optimist," he muttered, before heading off.

The kid's turned you soft, came a laughing reply in his head.

I think it's precious. The child needed a father and he got one.

Right.

A father.

Chapter Text

Help Wanted

It was at least something to do with that spare room, Birdie had decided. She had a three-bedroom apartment, and the third had done nothing but hold random furniture, boxes, and dust. Now it looked halfway presentable, and it seemed like Cell was keeping it clean enough.

If only he'd actually use the room; he didn't seem to even have touched the bed. Twice now she'd got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and gotten a fright at seeing him just standing there asleep in the hall.

The only thing he did seem to use was the TV, big surprise there. He was still working his way through her DVD collection, and she often found them missing.

First her season one collection of Breaking Bad, then a handful of rom-coms, a nature documentary, two action movies--Shoot 'Em Up came back to the rack, oddly enough, with an attached piece of paper with marks on it. More than a hundred. She shrugged and tossed it away.

A few days passed. Today, she got ready for work to a background of Japanese chatter from the living room TV, and it wasn't until she was getting breakfast that she looked to see what he was watching.

"What's that?" she asked.

"The case said Shin Godzilla. It crawled out of the ocean looked like a sack of rubber and now it's lighting everything on fire."

"...right, I remember that. Now, listen--I have to go to work, so you know what that means."

"Goku. You know, I'm not some toddler. I can be left alone in your home."

"I know, but if they don't see you they'll probably assume you're doing something wrong. Boot the movie out, and...I don't know, I'll watch it later tonight with you if you want."

That seemed to satisfy him. A few moments later, he was out the door.

She sighed, and went out to her car. It was almost like having a child, handling that man. He wanted to watch every DVD he could get his hands on; she was dreading the day he figured out Netflix, Youtube, or--even worse--the internet in general.

She made a mental note to keep him off her computer, and drove to work.


"I can't train with you right now," Goku said.

"You said you'd fight me every day. I want to fight you." Cell crossed his arms.

"I have to finish the farm work first!" came the protest. "If I try skipping out Chi-Chi will kill me! You'll just have to wait until I'm done."

And wait he did. Cell chose a nice shady spot under a tree and sat there.

And sat there.

And for good measure, sat some more.

Two hours passed in complete and utter boredom, and when he saw Goku taking the tractor over the same rows again he came forward. "Are you done yet?!"

"No, Cell, I'm not. Besides, I have to start harvesting the beans after I'm done here, and--"

"And what? How do you do that? I can probably do it faster than it takes you to stand there chattering about it."

Goku climbed down from the tractor, grabbed a basket that had been set aside, and went over a small section of the beans with Cell. "Pick them like this, and put them in here."

"Is that all? I could be done in ten minutes."

"Then do that. The faster I get done, the faster we can fight."

"Right." There was a pause--Goku was watching him pick the beans, so he took the time to speak to him again. "Why do you do this, anyway?"

"To make money," Goku replied, "Chi-Chi says I have to have a job, and this is pretty easy, so this is what I do."

And money was everything. Cell knew that Vegeta didn't have a job, but Bulma was rich--so that meant he didn't have to have one. Goku wasn't so fortunate, it seemed.

The farm work took another few hours, but it was finally done. And after Goku fetched a fish from the river, and ate, they finally had their fight.

Life was so much easier this way.

Just him, his fists, and Son Goku.

Chapter Text

Conventional Wisdom

"You're going to want to take supplements," Floe started in immediately once Cooler had sat her down with tea. "I've got a list here for you, and I'll be sending for some of the extra vitamins myself."

"I could've done that, grandmother," Cooler replied quietly.

"I'm sure you'd rather our people not know, and it would be easier if it were seen to be coming from me. I could say that I found some bastard or the other--I'm known to take care of the family ones, at least."

"Grandfather did have many of them..." Cooler shook his head. "I'm surprised he didn't have his 'accident' any sooner."

"I was willing to overlook him straying," Floe replied, "I didn't marry him for his fidelity, I married him because the family approved of him. It was only when he started meddling in Cold's affairs that I took interest in his...increasing number of accidents."

"I'm sure he suspected something."

"He suspected everything," she said, "And everyone. Small wonder I strayed again, hmm?"

Cooler went silent for a moment, and then said, "Who was he?"

"Who was who?"

"The man you...the other father."

Floe got a wistful smile on her face, and brought a datapad out from one of her bags. She turned it on, then brought up a picture, and showed it to Cooler.

"This is him in his prime," she said to him. "But he's every bit as handsome now, as he was then. It's just his hair that has changed."

Cooler took the datapad and looked curiously over it. "A Brenchman?"

The man was blue-skinned, and his hair was white and neatly trimmed; the kind of hair that one had after a long military career. Fitting, as he was dressed in a decorated uniform.

Inwardly, he couldn't help but laugh, given his own dalliance with Salza. This attraction to the Brench seemed to run in the family.

"Balsamic was a general that was given the unpleasant task of negotiating their planet's joining the PTO," Floe went on, "I insisted on meeting him myself, I was not going to let those below me do all the work and potentially sign away things I'd rather keep."

"A wise plan," Cooler said.

"He was silver-tongued, like a lot of his kin," she said, "And perhaps I did give more than I should have, but considering how valuable his planet was, I thought it a fair enough trade in the end."

"And?"

"And my husband was not the sort to care for diplomacy. He was partaking in some of his vices that evening, and was leaving it all to me."

"Not to mention leaving you alone with this man."

"After the negotiations were complete, I spent some time learning about his accomplishments. He seemed happy to talk, and I was happy to listen to someone who knew how to speak without swallowing his own sword constantly."

He did remember King Glazier being the type to be constantly high on himself...for the short period he knew him, anyway. The last time he'd seen the man was shortly after one of Frieza's early birthdays, when a visit had been made to his mother. He'd given some self-serving speech to her about begging her forgiveness, and had complimented Cooler himself on his vibrant color.

And then, that was it.

He'd died in the ship on the way back to the main palace.

Floe went on when Cooler looked back up again. "...it happened as I'm sure it did with you and your man, only much faster."

"I don't need to know what you did and when," Cooler said quickly.

"...at any rate, we kept in contact after that. What happened, happened, and...things were arranged, carefully. I was worried, you see, because hybrids were known to be pale, but thankfully the son that resulted was as colorful as any Arcosian is known to be. There were no showings of his other parentage. No quirks of DNA."

"You got lucky, grandmother."

"I was more careful after that."

There was a pause, and Cooler went on. "You mentioned the supplements..."

"Yes, of course," Floe said quietly, "I'll have some ordered and sent here as soon as possible."

She was watching the picture on the datapad.

"Grandfather is dead, and has been for years, you know," Cooler said, "Obviously you know. What I mean is...if you wanted to pursue this man, that is possible."

"In the public eye--"

"In the last five years alone things have happened that are much more scandalous. The Queen Mother pursuing an aged romance would look tame in comparison."

"I suppose you're right."

Chapter Text

Cat's Cradle

Be careful what you wish for, it might come true. That was the meaning of the monkey's paw story, one he'd found at random in the library.

Or if it did come true, it would do so in a cruel way.

He had been reading a lot lately, less for schoolwork and more for pleasure. He wanted something else to do, something that would keep his mind off the part of him that wanted to go across the hall, and...

...and...

"No," Gohan said out loud, "Not my enemy."

It didn't care, whatever it was. It was anger, it was rage, it was...it was raw emotion. But not like what Goku'd said Super Saiyan required. It was more than that, several orders of magnitude more...

He had said to Piccolo and the others that he had given Cell a good lesson in who was boss...or something like that, and they had accepted it, although there was worry written in everyone's face.

In truth, he didn't remember a thing.

One second he was standing there, horrified that his father had chosen him to fight, and the next he was clinging to Piccolo's arm for dear life. There was nothing in between the two points, and trying to remember just made his head hurt.

He couldn't tell his mother or father about this. Chi-Chi worried and pushed enough as it was, and Goku...Goku would just say that he could fight the anger off, that he could get through it that way.

Homework all done.

Deep breath.

Gohan went downstairs and saw his mother in the kitchen, and called, "I'm going to see Mr. Piccolo."

"Gohan, don't you want something to eat?"

"No," he replied, "I'm...not hungry right now."

"Gohan, you need to--"

He walked out anyway, and took off into flight. As he rose, he saw the fields; Goku and Cell seemed to be stacking cabbages in two different pyramids. Goku was standing by the smaller one, and gesturing wildly.

The anger gripped him again, but he pushed it back and kept going.

Goku wasn't important.

enemy

"No. My father is not my enemy."

enemy wronged me

"My father is not my enemy." Gohan repeated.

It calmed down as he approached Piccolo's latest meditation spot, and he gave a smile when the man's eyes opened.

"Gohan? What are you doing here?"

"I just wanted to know if you'd teach me something, is all."

There was a pause.

"What did you want to learn?" Piccolo looked carefully over him; he could feel the internal struggle Gohan was having. Perhaps it was Kami's influence...

I haven't felt that energy in a long time, Kami piped in at that thought, It reminds me of my struggle before I expelled your father.

"Your meditation. I've heard it's supposed to be calming, and the atmosphere out here is peaceful..."

"What's wrong, Gohan?"

Silence.

"I can't help you unless I know what's wrong."

Gohan took a deep breath. "I don't know what's wrong. Every time I look at my father, I'm angry. It doesn't matter what he's doing. He's tried to apologize since the Games, a lot, and all it makes me is furious."

Piccolo felt he could have handled this well enough, but Kami insisted on helping, and so when he spoke again, he spoke Kami's words. "And what is happening in your head when you're angry?"

Gohan shut his eyes.

"He's your enemy," Gohan said, "That's what happens. There's pain in my head, like someone shot a ki beam through my skull. Then scared, to the point of wanting to cry. Then fight or flight kicks in and my father is the enemy."

"I can help you," Piccolo replied, "But we're going to figure out what this is."

"I just want it gone."

He sounded so vulnerable, looked so alone.

"Are you afraid of it?"

"What if I snap?" Gohan asked, "I stay in my room because I'm afraid I'll snap and actually kill him. Or...or mom, and..."

"Gohan."

"You're the only one I can talk to about this. Please, Mr. Piccolo, help me."

"Alright, kid. Alright. I already said I'd help you, there's nothing to worry about."

The urge to evil was in his mind, buried deep, but still there. And his meditation did help to keep him from acting on it, but this problem of Gohan's? He doubted it would be tamed so easily.

But by the gods, he was going to try.

Chapter Text

Domestic Bliss

MY DAD SAYS YOU'RE A BAD INFLUENCE

"I still don't see why this is necessary," Birdie said.

"You would hunt better if you knew how to fly, that's why," Cell replied. She was gripping his hands tightly, nearly drawing blood--and her feet were barely a foot off the ground.

"I do that fine now."

"The last muggers you ate had friends, you know, and you didn't notice them only because I took care of them."

"I've handled three or so before, and I can heal my wounds. I'm fine, really, I don't need help."

Cell tugged his hands away; Birdie gave a slight cry and only barely managed to stay aloft.

"I also don't like heights."

Cell chuckled. "You'll soon get over that. My question is, why haven't you learned before now?"

"I didn't even know it was a thing until I met you and the others." Shakily, she moved a little higher. It was so strange to have gravity tugging at her, and to be giving it the middle finger. This went against everything she'd ever learned in physics...

"There you go. You'll be snatching them off the ground in no time."

"In case you hadn't noticed, I'm not very strong, either."

"That, too, can be fixed.

He reached his hands back out. When she grabbed them, Birdie shut her eyes and took a deep breath.

"And you say I need constant watching. If I weren't around, what would you do?" Cell couldn't help but laugh.

"What I did before."

"Hunting alone is rarely fulfilling. Don't you remember how much fun it was for us in that prison? A whole building full of degenerates, rats in a trap...well, it was a little boring, but I had a good time."

"You're a selfish man, you know that?" Birdie landed, and shook her head.

"I was made to be the perfect being. Do you expect me to be charitable and giving? What reason do I have to be either of those things?"

"Because life is a lot more fun when you're nice to people."

"Says the woman that eats those she doesn't like."

"I do that because they aren't nice," Birdie replied, and crossed her arms, "They deserve it."

She went silent, and the rest of the lesson proceeded in the same fashion. When it ended, she headed inside.

"How about we just watch a movie?"

"What movie?"

Birdie reached onto her shelf of DVDs, hurriedly grabbed one at random, and pulled out--Silence Of The Lambs.

The universe, she thought, is clearly having a laugh at my expense.


A REPTILE AND A MARTIAL ARTS MASTER WALK INTO A DOCTOR'S OFFICE...

The doctor, a colleague of Cooler's, had been somewhat reluctant to take him on as a patient. Not only because of being unfamiliar with Arcosians as a species, but also because he simply knew very little about birth as it pertained to egg-bearing folk. But he did at least agree to do the three-month ultrasound.

"It will be an egg," Cooler said, "So you may have a little trouble seeing it."

The doctor nodded, and brought the wand over Cooler's lower abdomen.

Tien focused carefully on the screen. "It's very small, but...there it is..."

Cooler looked up, also studying the teeny little blob onscreen. "I don't understand," he said, "We shouldn't be able to see it this clearly. There should be an eggshell."

"If you were to ask my opinion, which I do not advise as I am not quite in the know about your species," the doctor spoke slowly, "I would say that it's your child's human genetics that are doing this. No eggshell, when there should be one. You'll want to keep a close eye on this; perhaps get a doctor from one of your people. And if the pregnancy persists in behaving like a human one, then you'll want to arrange a C-section early. I say that because I advise against a natural birth, due to your narrow hips. But we'll see how things progress."

Cooler didn't look at him. He'd have to ask his grandmother--but he was fairly certain there were no Arcosian doctors that would be willing to oversee the pregnancy, as it were. Maybe a doctor from the PTO, a doctor of another species, one not blinded by his people's prejudice.

He could think of one, at least, but still, that was a long way to come just for one pregnancy. As if he didn't have enough to worry over.

No eggshell. This could go horribly wrong very quickly, if he wasn't careful...

"Cooler."

Tien brought him out of this mental reverie, and gestured to the screen. "Look, it's moving."

And despite his anxieties, Cooler couldn't help but smile at the little kicking blob onscreen.


I HAVE BUTTONS BIGGER THAN YOU

Cold hadn't liked the idea of a dog, and he had liked the idea of this thing even less when Samuia had brought it home a few months ago.

It was tiny, even by Earth's standards. It fit quite nicely in his wife's lap, but he, well...he was a different story.

"Pomeranian" was what she said its breed was, and all Cold could do was wonder what it was good for. The dachshunds were good for hunting burrow-dwellers, the poodles were good in the water, and the golden retrievers were easily trained in any number of things, but this thing?

What good was THIS breed, except to take up Samuia's attention?

And she wasn't even here at the moment, of course, so that meant the little fur demon wanted his attention.

"No," he said, when it jumped against his leg. "I am not picking you up."

Yip

"I said NO."

The phone ringing was a blessing. Cold answered it, relieved.

"Hello? Yes...yes, I am sitting down." There was a pause, and then, "I knew you'd succeed, it's just taken you time to gauge taste and interest. These Earth people are always looking for some new thing to fawn over. You've just given them something new, is all. And given you're...what?"

Yip

"They're backwards in some ways, but given what you're doing, it's assumed you'll be different. Yes...yes, I know." Cold sighed, and put his hand over his eyes in impatience. "Zarbon...Zarbon, you can calm down. We're not in the PTO any more. You owe me nothing but dividends, per the agreement we drew up two years ago."

He gave a sort of half chuckle. "No, I haven't told Frieza. He'll find out eventually, I'm sure, but it won't be from me."

A few parting pleasantries later, the call was over.

Hff...hff...

The wretched little troll-dog was trying to jump up onto his knees, and was failing miserably.

"And what do YOU want?"

Yip

He stood. No matter how hard he glared at the thing, or how mean his voice sounded, it always did what it was doing right now: looked up at him and wagged its little tail like a happy little loon.

And followed him. That was almost as bad as the barking.


PARENTAL GUIDANCE ADVISED

"No, mother, I have no idea how that happened." Maron said. Her tone was concerned, but her face was covered with a shit-eating grin. "Why did it take you this long to call me?"

Frieza was watching her from across the room, holding the red egg against his biogem. Maron was already beautiful, but when she was vengeful, oh...

"Who is this investor, anyway? ...what? Father's been voted out by the board of directors? Well what do you expect me to do about it? I wasn't qualified to...alright, I'll call him, but if he's gone off the deep end I don't know what you expect."

The deep end?

"Fine. Mother, I'll have to call you back. We're expecting company. Right. Right."

Maron hung up, sighed happily, and sank back into the sofa.

"Good news I take it?" Frieza asked.

"You know how I wanted to ruin them? I think I've done it."

"You think, hmm? And what's happened, exactly? Something about the deep end?"

"My father was voted out of being CEO by the board of directors. It seems our investor has demanded his removal, due to incompetence."

"And that started about the same time as...?" Frieza questioned.

"My father has a tendency to drink heavily when things don't go his way in business," Maron replied, "And you can imagine that after this...shareholder...appeared, he was feeling the heat. The board's been bothering him, and bothering him, and he's leaned more and more heavily on the bottle."

"And this will only make it worse, I'm sure."

"I'm sure. Vengeance is mine, as you might put it."

"He's your father." Frieza wasn't serious about the remark, to be honest, but he wanted to gauge her reaction. "I've heard it said around here that the best revenge is living well."

"That's just what people say when they want you to go away and give no more trouble. Like being the bigger person. It's never the one with his dragon getting gored who says it." Maron stepped closer, and looked down at the egg, seemingly eager to change the subject. "Has it moved?"

"It doesn't move in a way you can feel until later on," Frieza said. "You'll just have to wait."

Chapter Text

Difference

"And how are you feeling today?"

Piccolo tried to give an encouraging look to Gohan, who looked just as beaten-down as he had the last few days. There was a minute smile in return, but nothing more.

"You can tell me, Gohan."

"It's calmed down a little," came the quiet, almost inaudible reply, "Can we get started?"

"Has it been helping you? Have you been meditating at home, like I told you to?"

"Yes," Gohan said. He was silent for a moment, before going on. "I tried fighting my dad yesterday."

"And?"

"He had a good time. I was just letting out what anger I could, but it was hard to hold it back."

"Did he tell you to hold it back?"

Gohan shook his head. "I don't know what it would have done. Dad can take a serious beating, but I wasn't willing to do that, considering his backup would likely have been Cell, if I'd gone out of control."

"That's a smart move, kid. And it was good that you thought to do it," Piccolo said.

"I know."

He could still feel that conflict in Gohan's mind, but it had slowed in the last several minutes. An encouraging sign, he thought. Maybe if he tried--

Gohan was hugging him.

Gohan was just standing there, shaking, and hugging him.

What am I supposed to do?! he asked Kami, How do I handle this?

Hug him back, Nail cut in suddenly. Dende did this once, back on Namek. He's scared, he wants reassuring.

So Piccolo hugged Gohan in return, and awkwardly patted his back in an attempt to make him feel better.

"It scares me, Mr. Piccolo," he said in a shaky voice.

"I'm going to help you, don't worry," Piccolo said, echoing the words Nail was feeding him, "You're going to be fine."

Then Kami spoke up, and he added something else.

"I handled my inner evil, and so can you."


Cell wanted to feed that beautiful, blood-hungry woman more than anything right now.

And he couldn't understand it. Yes, she was an agreeable companion, yes, they were biologically alike, but this urge to feed her had come up out of seemingly nowhere. It felt--it felt more than an urge, it felt right, it felt like the proper thing to do. Necessary.

He had IT'd in--more than a little glad that he'd been able to persuade Goku to teach him--and asked about this, as the matter had been puzzling him all morning.

Goku agreed, and said he tended to do a lot of fishing in June and July.

"I don't know what it is either," Goku confessed, "But I know that when the weather gets warm, if I don't bring her food I feel like I'm not doing things right. Even Vegeta does it, and Bulma's the richest woman on the planet. It's something a saiyan man does for his wife, he said."

"...what's a wife?"

"It's the woman that lives with you, that you promise to stay with and take care of."

"Why would you make that promise?"

"Because I wanted to stay with her," Goku said. "You do it when your girl likes you just as much as you like her."

Cell thought about it, while he worked at helping with the first round of harvesting that day. Gero had said Birdie was for him, maybe this was what was intended?

Someone to stay with him?

A female counterpart seemed absolutely necessary, if the movies in Birdie's collection were any indication. They were full of women desperate to find men, or at least a partner in general, in the case of a rare few. Surely she wanted a partner, too.

Who better than the perfect being?

"Cell! Hello?"

"What?!" Cell was ripped from this line of thought, and looked down with some annoyance at Goku. "What is it?"

"We've got another few rows to plant."

"I thought we were done with all that."

"Chi-Chi says that since you're helping me, I have to start paying you, so this is what I thought we should do."

Birdie would certainly like that. The movies he watched with her had further helped along the idea of money being important. Women liked a provider, a man with a job, even if she had her own job. It was a sign that he wasn't completely lazy, or stupid. It was a sign that he was good for her.

He didn't understand what it was he was supposed to be good for, but this much at least he had locked down.

So he helped Goku plant the new rows, and decided he would indulge his other urge as soon as possible.


Beautiful and blood-hungry, just like he'd thought.

She wiped the expression from her face quickly enough, but he'd seen it all the same, when she looked at the man he'd brought her. The man still struggling, despite the broken jaw that Cell had given him while trying to keep him quiet.

"He was on the news. A serial killer, I believe," he said to her, "I assumed you would be happy with him."

Oh, she certainly was.

The man hadn't gotten off, but he had avoided the death penalty, and she remembered mentioning how unfair that was to the victims' families. Prison wasn't going to be good to him, but he had deprived his victims of life.

It was only fair that he should lose his own as well.

"No one saw you?" she asked.

"No."

They had Goku to thank for that.

"People are going to notice he's gone."

"I was fast enough that they wouldn't have seen. Maybe a shadow, but no more than that."

His hand tightened. Blood was dripping from under his hand, and Birdie stepped forward--

"Go on," Cell said. The feeling was building. This was right, this was what he was supposed to do, he was supposed to bring food to her. And he had.

I shouldn't, Birdie thought it only for a second, before jabbing her tail into the man's neck. There was a muffled scream, and Cell's grip on him grew only tighter.

Oh, yes...

She knew it was a bad idea to indulge this, especially this time of year. She'd learned that after a hunting trip she'd taken with a guy two years ago.

The blood...

Starting in early June, the taste and scent of blood would work on her differently. During that hunting trip, the guy had brought her something. Some small game or the other--she had eaten it like this, and...

...well, he went away from the trip very happy.

This was dangerous.

The feeling she'd gotten, the desire it had ignited...

No.

No.

She told herself she wouldn't do it, she had control of herself here, and a sex shop's wet dream waiting in her bottom dresser drawer.

Cell didn't even know what it was. He wouldn't know what to do.

She wouldn't risk it.

But the rush from devouring that struggling, the high of removing one more rotten person from existence--she took in a deep, satisfied breath when the last of him vanished.

And she met Cell's eyes.

If I have any more like this in the next month, I'm going to end up fucking him, she thought, I can't let that happen.

She had fought long and hard against the genetic programming Gero had put into her, and though she had lost many battles, this was not one she intended to add to the pile.