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Vegeta slams his broad shoulder against the backdoor that rattles as it comes unstuck from its frame. This is all that remains of his father’s legacy—just over a thousand square feet of dark, dingy space that always smells of stale beer, bleach, and moldy wood.

He assesses the long hall for damage from his two days off, but it’s all the same perpetual devastation. Old photos hang askew along the back wall where cracks grow up from warped baseboards. The lacquer has begun to erode from the long bar top, and no matter what chemicals they use to wipe it down at night, a sticky film always seems to linger. The legs of every stool wobble and squeak, and tufts of yellowed stuffing poke out from the tears on every cushion. The tiles are cracked and chipped away in places, and the subflooring below has turned a dirty, grey hue.

That’s just the front of the house. He can’t begin to wrap his mind around the kitchen. Doing so will surely push him over the edge of sanity to perhaps act on one of the more dangerous ways to rid himself of the cursed, debt-ridden monstrosity. Plenty of developers have made offers on the place, but even if it was possible to sell it and be done, none have yet to come close to matching the insurance money he’d get if, say, a faulty burner leveled the building down to its sinking foundation. A moot route to take, considering he’d never see a dime of it. To disappear the bar, he’d have to disappear himself along with it, lest Frieza do it for him. He’ll suffer far more than a broken knee burning one of the man’s assets to the ground.

At least the decrepit joint isn’t acting up yet today. That’s one less nagging pain to endure for the next few hours—until being on his feet inevitably wears him down, and he’ll be forced to stand on one leg and use the bar itself as leverage.

He puffs out his cheeks in a long exhale and ducks under the opening at the far end to clock in at the computer, nodding absently at Raditz as the big oaf makes his way toward him, practically sprinting. His bouncy stride rattles the glassware stacked along the well. Vegeta swipes his keycard at the POS, internally preparing himself to hear, and expressly deny, whatever hairbrained favor the lug is about to beg off him. The man’s oversized palm lands roughly on his shoulder, shaking him.

“Oh shit! Dude, she’s back!” An eager grin is plastered on his face.

“Who?”

“The chick I was telling you about! Can I take your shift?”

For more than a week, Raditz hasn’t stopped talking about some damned blue-haired broad that came into the bar alone and supposedly wasted an entire evening giving the colossal doofus the time of day.

Vegeta can’t help it. His attention floats up from the monitor as she struts toward them. She looks normal, not crazy, not like someone who’d indulge an ineffectual moron like Raditz with her attention. Nor is she tall and leggy, the way the dipshit usually likes them. She’s petite, well-proportioned, maybe a little busty. The curve of her hips sway beneath a tight suede skirt as her high heels click against the tiles, sending ringlets of cerulean curls to spring from her shoulders in pace with her gait. Big, round eyes lock on to where he and Raditz stand, and her lips pull into a smile. Vegeta has to admit she’s pretty enough to make sense of Raditz’s offer to work an impromptu double shift.

“No,” Vegeta answers, for no other reason than to see the hope deflate from Raditz’s eyes. “Didn’t you say you have a date?”

“Yeah, but…” Raditz exhales in a long whistle. “She don’t look like that!”

“Clock out, moron. I’m not paying you to ogle the patrons.”

“Yeah... right…” Raditz lets loose a low, cynical laugh as he ducks under the bar. “Hey, come’re for a sec.”

“What?”

He reaches across the counter, and before Vegeta can comprehend what the dolt is up to, his chin is grasped tightly in Raditz’s rough palm, and he’s stretching the corners of his lips between his thumb and forefinger. A giggle spills from the man’s lips at a pitch unbefitting for the six foot tall baboon.

Vegeta slaps his hand away. “The fuck are you doing?”

“I’d stick with dark and broody. You look crazy when you smile.”

“Get the fuck out of my bar.”

“I’m goin’!” Raditz’s palms are held up defensively, and he spins toward the back door. “Good luck stud,” he calls over his shoulder.

Vegeta makes his way down the length of the bar, cleaning up Raditz’s mess behind him—dirty glassware he’s stacked in the sink instead of washing them, bottles he’s left out on the bar, filthy towels thrown everywhere.

It’s early. Besides the girl, only two others sit along the counter, both nursing liters of their cheapest lager. Not that the time of day plays much of a role in the head count. His late father’s bar is a dive in the middle of a gentrifying neighborhood. The clientele consists of the few hangers on—mostly old men, crust punks, ironic hipsters… and now, her.

“Hi,” she chirps as she sits down and pulls a laptop from a patent leather shoulder bag.

“You want something?” Vegeta doesn’t look up from the small sink he’s filling with soapy water to wash away an entire basin of Raditz’s worthless ambition in glassware.

She doesn’t respond at first, and he can hear her long fingernails clicking against the keyboard. “Actually, you might wanna restart your router. Your network isn’t showing up on my computer.”

Vegeta straightens from where he’s been bent over the sink. A pair of oversized eyes, rimmed with long lashes sparkle in front of him, narrowing slightly as her bright, pink lips twitch into a smile. He feels like an organism pinned under a microscope as she analyzes his features, unabashedly raking her gaze up and down his frame.

Vegeta clears his throat, trying to shake her attention back to his interminable scowl.

“There’s a coffee shop across the street. Isn’t that what those places are for? Perhaps the library?”

“Libraries are stuffy, and it’s after four. Time for a stiff drink!” She says, slapping a palm against the sticky wood. “Besides, why would I pay five bucks for five seconds of conversation at the counter with some pimple-faced barista when I can relax here all night and talk to you?”

The woman folds her hands under her chin and bats her lashes. A grin, sickly sweet, spreads below the apples of her cheeks. A part of him wonders if she’s some sort of sex addict perusing bars for a pick-up. There’s no other explanation that comes to mind as to why she’s in this dive. Clientele notwithstanding, the bar does have a reputation for hiring gym rats. Perhaps, she has a type.

“I’m not that kind of bartender. I get paid to make drinks, not conversation.”

“Clearly, you’re not a marketer. You should really be taking advantage of a one-stop-shop—drinks, therapy, internet.”

“Did you want a drink, or are you just here to tell me how to run my bar?”

“It’s your bar?”

The lilt in her tone feels more like an insult than a compliment. That she’s surprised in any amount that he owns such a miserable establishment means he’s coming across as more inept than the two bums drinking at the other end.

“Is now. Inherited. My father passed last year.”

“Oh,” she says, dropping her grin. “I’m sorry-”

“Save it. Unlike yourself, I don’t seek therapy in dingy dive bars.” Vegeta folds his arms, growing impatient as he’s forced to ask for what feels like the tenth time in the past two minutes, “You want a drink or not?”

“Jeez, socialize much?”

“No.”

It’s not a lie. Until now, he’s not been around many peers his own age in a social setting. Most of his life was spent in training among old coaches and his father, an upstart boxing champ who knocked-up a fangirl at twenty, a girl who skipped town shortly after he was born. Vegeta was the product of his father’s inability to keep his dick in his pants, and as a child, he was tended to by whatever fling was currently on tap—none of whom stuck around for very long. His upbringing was unconventional to say the least, raised between four ropes to care about nothing but winning, being the best at his craft, being paraded through the bar with a thick, gold belt in his hands and his old man’s secondhand glory.

She purses her lips like she’s annoyed. “Fine, I’ll take a Negroni, Hendrix gin, dry vermouth.”

Tch… Of course she’d order something as pretentious as her Louis Vuitton handbag.

He doesn’t know why he’s antagonizing a customer, one that looks capable of paying her tab no less, but he can’t help himself. There’s something about her that’s begging to be taken down a peg, and Vegeta is nothing if not competitive. If he can’t physically fight in the ring, he has to win somewhere, and she’s already proving to be a worthy opponent.

“There are plenty of trendy bars around here for that. You know the type… reclaimed wood, tin ceilings, Edison bulbs, ice cubes as big as my fist, bartenders in fucking bow ties,” he says as he pours the ingredients into a shaker with a scoop of ordinary sized ice cubes and pounds the lid shut with the heel of his palm.

“You seem to like those places about as much as I do. They’re all the same. This is…” she glances around the bar, at his father’s boxing photos on the walls, trophies and memorabilia that are interspersed between the bottles. “Kind of kitschy, but it has character, a personal touch. And it’s all the same brands of alcohol anyway, just half the price.”

“You’re thrifty for someone in designer threads.”

“Maybe that’s how I’m so rich—pinching pennies by boycotting overpriced bars and restaurants.”

While he shakes her drink over his shoulder and strains it into a martini glass she continues to stare at him with a kind of scrutinizing attention that makes him uncomfortable, like a post-match fangirl outside his locker room, except this one appears to hold a full deck. Whoever she is, she’s clever, not failing to get under his skin. He quickly, carefully shoves the drink toward her and resumes washing dishes.

“Besides, I’d rather look at the beefcakes that work here than some nerds in bow ties. Do you cut the sleeves off your shirt to show off those big ‘ol biceps?”

Oh god… If he could crawl into the deep basin and flush himself down the drain, he’d do it. Is it too late to call Raditz back? She’s a brutal opponent, going 10-9 for the round, and he fears he might get knocked down. His face feels hot. It’s probably as red as her drink. He pretends he didn’t hear her.

“Hey! Muscles! I asked you a question.”

“It’s easier to move, to work out in,” he mumbles, still keeping his entire frame hidden below the bar top.

“Are you a boxer? Any of these trophies yours? Is that you?”

Is what him? He peeks up from below the counter to see what she’s pointing at. It is him, a picture of him as kid with his first amateur championship belt and his father towering over him proudly. He plans on redecorating at some point, though the extent of that just means throwing out all of the boxing junk. Bare, clean, no personal photos or questions about personal photos from strange rich girls that drink stiff drinks at dive bars before dinnertime. Vegeta pretends he’s too busy to make eye contact or mutter a response more in depth than, “Yes.”

“Do you still compete?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Didn’t you have work to do?”

“Your WiFi is down.”

“It’s not down. It’s hidden. Give.” He gestures for her laptop with a wave of his palm.

He’d hidden the network after he learned that Raditz was handing the login out to patrons, especially the college kids that live in the adjacent building within range to mooch from their couches. But if it will shut her up, he’ll gladly grant her access.

“Oh no buddy! I don’t give my laptop to anyone. I have patents to protect.”

“Fine, then no WiFi.”

“Fine.” She grins. “So why don’t you fight anymore?”

“Ugh... Burn this when you’re done.” Vegeta grabs a napkin to pen the network name and password and slides it toward her.

“That’s an odd phone number.”

“What?”

“Kidding.” She rolls her eyes. “Christ, you’re uptight.” The woman begins to log herself in, not without muttering loudly, “Seems like you’re overdue to get laid.”

“I’m… I’m… not-” he stutters dumbly, but it’s as if the rush of blood to his head has boiled away any clever comeback.

It’s a goddamn knockdown; she’s insufferable. What the hell was Raditz fawning over, anyway? Vegeta doesn’t indulge the comment and goes on the defensive, wandering to the other end of the bar to refill the old men’s beers. Okay, so maybe it’s a forfeit… a waste of his time, whatever it is.

The front door swings open with a force that threatens to knock the weathered board off its hinges.

“Sorry, my bad!” Kakarot’s shoulders shrug up his neck as he steps inside twenty minutes late for his shift. “Hi Geta!” he waves, failing to register the murderous glare extended in his direction. He ducks under the opening at the end of the bar to pop up in front of Vegeta with a dopey grin grafted between his ears. “Slow day, huh?”

“No more than usual. You’re late, by the way.”

“Sorry! Just, nobody’s ever eatin’ around four.”

“And if they were, you expect me to cook and tend bar?”

A giddy little chortle spurts from Kakarot’s throat at the idea of Vegeta cooking anything, his mop of perpetual bed head wagging back and forth. As much as he’d like to slug the fucker, he’s not wrong. Vegeta isn’t exactly known for his self-sufficiency in the culinary art. His apartment is shamefully stocked with frozen, ready-made meals, salty snacks, and the occasional rotisserie chicken from the neighborhood co-op when he can afford to indulge.

“Just watch the bar, moron. I’ll be in the office.”

Thankfully, the annoying blue-haired harpy is busy with her work and doesn’t make a peep as he passes her, allowing him to escape into the back without another pointless interaction.

Vegeta sits down at the desk and rubs his knee. He hasn’t even been on his feet for thirty minutes, and already a dull pain is beginning to pulse around the joint, made worse by the orange light on the landline that blinks almost in unison. He pours himself a finger of whiskey to head off the torment and lifts the receiver to his ear.

One new message: Oi, Princey! Eight o’clock, mate. This one’s a doozy. Boss is gettin’ lucky!

Fuck… Frieza’s luck is Vegeta’s demise. He’s been pushing his own luck trying to cook the books the past year, cleaning Frieza’s money. A part of him knows the pale turd is pushing him on purpose, forcing him to exist in a constant state of fear on both ends as retribution for his moment of insolence. The slimy boss has a hand in dozens of establishments for this purpose, but Vegeta’s is increasingly scrubbing more and more of his dirt. And what tax officer with two working brain cells would believe that a joint like this is gaining profit exponentially? At this rate, it’s the law or the landfill. His options are dwindling fast.

He tries to bury the thoughts and busies himself with the circular chore of filling supply orders and puzzling together the next month’s schedule—a thankless task that’s always met with the entitled gripes of his staff. At least he’s better at knocking down their bullshit than his father was. The man was cold and imposing, but only to him. In everyone else’s memory he was the friendly neighborhood barkeep and former heavyweight boxing champion three times over—admired and well-liked by all that fell within his radius.

Vegeta Sr., “The King” as he was known in the circuit, had always been easily flattered, which meant he was easily swindled. Thousands of dollars of debt were racked up in the bar tabs of his regulars, and prime shifts had been delivered through cheap compliments, a game in which Raditz had gone pro. Shit, Vegeta was surprised that his old man hadn’t redrawn his will and given Raditz the damnable building before he died. But then again, his father was a vengeful sonofabitch. Bestowing his only son, his fucking life’s disappointment, with insurmountable debt and enslaving him to a crime boss before he kicked the bucket was probably easy for him.

Fighting and the bar, the two things that once defined Vegeta were never his own. He liked fighting to an extent, and he had been proving to be better at it than his old man—a five-time champion across three weight classes before he turned twenty-five. That was when he lost his knee—couldn’t bring himself to take a dive, which was punished with the abrupt end of his career. He’d won the match, but lost everything else.

A part of him was glad to see the horror on his father’s face when the doctors showed him the scans of his ruptured ligaments, the bones below his knee shifted so far out of order, his leg looked like a busted tree branch after a storm left dangling by the bark. There was little more than skin to tether the bottom half of his leg to the rest of him. Two surgeries, they said, and he’d be lucky to walk without a painful limp. His boxing career was over before it had hardly begun, and if things keep up this way, his life is headed in the same direction.

Vegeta follows the growl of his stomach back into the bar, finding Kakarot washing the glassware, flapping his gums at the woman.

“That’s the beauty of twenty-ouncers, you’re less likely to bruise your knuckles, and the extra weight’ll build up your strength.” As if the woman cares about glove weights. She’s nodding at him with wide eyes and a plastic smile, the kind of look anyone with an average IQ would have the capacity to register as polite disinterest.

“Oh! Grumpy Gus is back!” She perks upright on the stool. “I was just asking your friend here if being a hunky slab of meat is a job requirement. Turns out it’s true! You recruit them from the gym.”

“I did not recruit them. They came begging. And I did not hire them. In fact, I told my father they were a bunch low-grade meatheads and he’d be better off hiring chimps.”

“Are you gonna let him talk to you like that?” The woman grins up at Kakarot like they’re old pals.

“That’s just Geta. He don’t mean it,” Kakarot says, brushing off the insult with a smile and wave of his large paw. “Oh! Bulma, tell him about the nannas!”

“Nanos,” she corrects. “Right! So get this... Geta, is it?”

“Vegeta.”

“VA-geta! Mmm.” She hums his name like she’s tasting it. “Well, Vegeta, Goku here was telling me about your little mishap with your knee, and I think I can help.”

Vegeta snaps his head to the dolt. “Kakarot, you goddamned windbag!”

The dumbass crawls his shoulders toward his earlobes as he whines, “Aw, come on Geta, she says she’s a scientist! She’s got crazy nanna ticks that can fix ya up! Don’cha wanna spar again? I miss sparrin’ with ya. Even bein' a lightweight, you were the only one good enough for me.”

The woman snorts. One hand pats her chest as she pretends to wipe her eyes with the other. “Whew! That was super touching, but I think you should really kneel and hold his hand before you whip the ring out.”

“Get back to work, Kakarot. Prep the kitchen. I’m fucking hungry.”

“Yeah, yeah… I’m just sayin’ you should think about it.”

“Nanotech,” the woman corrects the inbred knuckle-dragger once he’s gone. “Basically, I program nanorobots to reinforce and in some cases even recreate tissue. It’s perfect for a case like yours. My clinical trials were approved, and I can pull some strings to get you into the program. You’ll be back to sparring with that big ‘ol muffin of yours in no time.”

“I’m not a lab rat, and that dope and I are not-”

“Kidding, dude. Relax… If you don’t learn to take a joke, you’re gonna give yourself an aneurysm. That, I can’t fix. Just think about it?”

Her shiteating grin is gone, and there’s a sharpness to her tone that begs to be taken seriously. Thankfully, he avoids answering her and letting the crackpot proposition pierce the teflon barrier of his head when two hypebeast hipsters strut through the doors clad neck to toes in high-end streetwear, the logos of which are prominently displayed across their overpriced t-shirts.

They eye the old bums at the far end of the bar, exchanging snide comments to one another before grabbing seats next to the woman, who they must have deemed more their caliber.

The young girl, who looks like a blonde version of the dark haired male beside her, removes a shiny track jacket, placing it neatly across her lap. She looks up at Vegeta with a dull, expectant look in her narrowed eyes. “Uh, drinks? You got a menu or something?”

Vegeta wags his thumb over his shoulder toward the three long shelves of liquor behind him. “There’s your menu.”

Her icy blue eyes scan the bottles, and she elbows the boy next to her, who glances up from his phone long enough to say, “Vodka Tonic, none of that rail drivel though. Something decent,” before he goes back to typing.

“Same thing,” says the girl.

Vegeta leans against the counter, his chin resting on the heel of his palm.

“You hard of hearing?” she snaps.

He lifts his eyebrows. “ID?”

The girl scoffs and elbows her companion again before she digs into the pocket of her coat and tosses the card onto the bar top. The boy does the same without looking up from his phone.

Vegeta lazily scoops them up and reads their birthdates, which are the same. His eyes dart between them.

“What, creep? We’re twins.”

“Yeah, no shit.” Vegeta flicks her ID back at her, intentionally aiming over her shoulder to let it skip across the grimy tiles.

“Asshole,” she sneers.

Before the girl even considers lifting her entitled ass from the stool to retrieve it, the blue-haired woman is out of her seat, swiping the the card from the floor.

The boy slaps his phone onto the bar. Having missed the interaction, he glances around blankly. “Where’s my drink?”

Vegeta is about to pass the boy his license and make their goddamn drinks, but seeing woman’s brows twist as she examines the blonde’s ID gives him pause.

“Huh…” she says, turning it over.

“Hey lady, do you mind?”

“Sorry, it’s just… you should really ask for your money back on this fake. They didn’t even bother to edit out the red-eye.”

“What?” Vegeta snaps. How the hell did he miss it? The woman hands it back to him, jokingly swerving the thing just out of the blonde’s reach.

“Just because I don’t have your crows feet doesn’t mean I’m underage, you ancient bitch!”

“Get the fuck out!” Vegeta hisses. He doesn’t know why, but a pang of anger has seized him on the woman’s behalf for the blonde’s crude remark. If he weren’t maimed, he’d have half a mind to kick their asses… or at least threaten as much.

“Give us back our IDs,” the male drolls, as if he has the leverage to make demands.

“Nope! That’s the law kids. He can confiscate them, or turn them over to the cops if you’d prefer.”

“Fuck you!” The boy shoves his stool as he stands, nearly letting it topple over. “Come on, sis. This place is a shithole anyway.”

“Yeah good luck with your bar, asshole. I hope it burns to the ground.”

“You and me both!” Vegeta smirks, watching them go.

“You’re welcome,” the woman chimes with a smug tilt of her head as she finishes her drink.

“Yeah, thanks.” He means it honestly. The last thing he needs is to be arrested for serving alcohol to minors, which is exactly what could have happened had she not intervened. Shit, he would have fed them all night if they’d paid them. Judging by their outfits, they probably had the cash.

“You don’t look a day over thirty, by the way.” He mutters it under his breath, a barely audible gratitude and guilt-ridding decree to make up for the teen’s harsh comment.

“I’m twenty-six,” she says, unable to contain her snickering as his face slacks in mortification.

Goddammit, the one time he tried to feed a girl a compliment.

“Well in that case, the next one’s on the house.” Vegeta avoids eye-contact, trying to beat down the blush that’s bloomed across his cheeks as he makes her another cocktail and slides it toward her.

He pours himself two fingers of whiskey in an attempt to drown his awkward flub and play it cool, but he downs it before he realizes that she’s holding out her drink to clink glasses. Fuck! He’s bad at this whole socializing with the opposite sex thing, or any sex for that matter.

He’s clumsy around her, he knows, but he’s never done this sort of thing before—befriended a girl, or a person, technically. Not that he’s trying to befriend her. He just… well, he appreciates her help with the teenagers, and he feels badly about their unwarranted digs. It doesn’t mean he likes her, god no.

He’s not about to make the same mistakes as his womanizing old man, whoring around dive bars and strip clubs. In those places, STDs were more prevalent than cockroaches, and Vegeta spent plenty of time trying not to touch anything as some cocktail waitress played mommy while his father was off doing god knew what. Shit, Vegeta likely has a horde of half-siblings neither he nor his father were even aware of.

Despite his fumble, the woman appears unperturbed, a stone-cold pro with no apparent reason to front. She laughed at him, like it was the funniest thing and said far more about his underdeveloped affability than her age. Hell, it should. She’s beautiful, and though he may have technically been born the same year, he was born a crotchety mole person with a chip on his shoulder and zero social skills. He knows that! There’s no reason she needs to rub it in.

The woman shrugs and takes a sip of her fresh drink, staring at him intently with her lips pressed together, as if a critical eyeball will turn up the missing jigsaws in his thousand piece puzzle. Self-consciousness quickly overrides his momentary foray in friendliness, and he’s back to wondering exactly what this woman’s game is.

“What?” he snaps.

“Drinking on the job? Gotta say, I thought that stick up your ass ran all the way to your throat.”

Vegeta just grumbles and pours himself a second one to spite her. He holds it out with a melodramatic wag, and she smiles, lifting her own drink to clink glasses.

“This give no fucks thing suits you,” she says.

“I give plenty of fucks.”

“Of the wrong variety, clearly.” Her eyebrows flick with her cheap retort, and she’s back to floating that honeyed gaze, curling her smirk around the rim of her glass.

Tch… She’s awfully smug for someone so irritating. “Vulgar wom-”

“Hey! Junior!” His attempt at a comeback is cut short by a loud, familiar voice that booms into the room.

Vegeta fights the instinct to slam his forehead against the bartop to knock himself out. It somehow seems preferable to conversing with the delusional showboat that’s swaggering toward him.

“Pour a stein for the champ of yer finest ale,” he demands with a swing of his fat finger.

Hercule Satan had retired as a heavyweight champion, on paper at least. He frequented the bar always donned in his silk boxing robe with his name sprawled across the back, clinging desperately to the old days, hoping to be recognized. Vegeta would be surprised if the man didn’t have headshots and a sharpie tucked into the pockets, ready to sign for his phantom fans.

“Call me junior again and I’ll put a stein in your face.”

“Heh! Don’t make threats ya can’t enforce son. Even without that bum knee of yer’s, ya can’t take a world class heavyweight. I beat yer father after all.”

“Hardly.” Vegeta cocks his head and holds out his hand, begging his fingers at the old fool. “You want that drink, you show me the money.”

“Aw, son. Can’t ya just put it on my tab?”

“I’m not your son, and there are no tabs, only debts to be paid back… with interest.”

Old Satan grumbles something about an ungrateful generation as he fishes in his robe for a crumpled twenty dollar bill.

“Ya ain’t hung my picture yet,” he nods his chin at the wall as Vegeta pulls the tap.

“Still looking for tacks.” Vegeta slides the stein toward him.

Satan takes a sip, coating his mustache in foam. “Ah, that’s good,” he sighs and sets the beer down. His big, dopey eyes look back at Vegeta for a long moment. “Ya got change for me, kid?”

Vegeta shakes his head. “Like I said. Interest.”

“Ya kiddin’ me! Damn, junio… er… I mean… Ya ain’t nothin’ like yer daddy. He knew how to treat his winnin’ combatants.”

“Yep.. My pops was a real inspiration. His heart gave out at forty-five, and he left his only child with his fucking thirty thousand dollar debt. You wanna cheers the fuckwad’s memory, be my guest, but take it down wind.” He points toward the old cronies Satan normally hangs with anyway. The old man huffs loudly before he wraps his mitts around his beer and wanders toward them.

“Damn, I thought you had an ego,” the woman says. “That guy’s a heavyweight champion?”

Tch... As if… The match with my father was fixed.”

“Really?” her eyes bug with excitable drama. “The fights are rigged? By who?” She leans across the bar, drawing in her normally loud voice, as if they're playground pals sharing secrets.

“A lot of them… Powerful people you don’t want to fuck with.”

“Did they rig any of yours?”

“One.”

She sits back and gives him that penetrating glare again, like some cheap clairvoyant. “Somehow I don’t see you taking a dive even under duress or if these boogeymen doubled what you would have won.”

“Never said I complied.”

“Rebel,” she smirks, eyes flashing wide. “So what happened? Did you get in trouble?”

Vegeta clears his throat, thankful he doesn’t have to answer her question when Kakarot peeps his head from the kitchen. “Food’s ready, Geta.”

If there’s one thing the moron can do properly, it’s flip burgers. Vegeta takes his meal into the office and leaves the dope behind the bar, sure to warn him that if he blabs any more personal information to that meddlesome girl, he’ll find his mouth kissing the hot grill.

He eats faster than usual, feeling uninspired to tackle the accounting, especially given the fact that the task is about to become twice as treacherous when Jeice arrives with the shipment. His mind refuses to settle, keeps wandering to thoughts of escape, to saying fuck it and burning the fucker to the ground. He’ll have to fake his own death to get out from under Frieza’s thumb. Maybe those teens will come back with some balls and a bottle of flaming fuel to chuck through the window. Wishful thinking. More likely those posers will be all Banksy about it and throw a goddamned bouquet at his stoop.

Vegeta sluffs back to the bar to find it’s filled out somewhat in his absence. The addition of ten or so people has the clown dashing around, trading cash for pints. Though, not all of them are paying customers. A little head of disheveled black hair pokes up from just above the bar top, his tiny paws grabbing for a plastic cup of soda set just out of his reach. The blue-haired woman helps the little brat, lifting the cup from the bar, giggling as he tries to wrap his lips around the straw.

“Oh my god! Thank you so much for watching him!” Kakarot’s raven-haired hussy exclaims as she runs toward her kid from the swinging bathroom door.

“Hey, no sweat! He’s a cute little guy! Aren’t you?”

The boy just looks up at her with round eyes, sucking soda down his gullet in silence.

“Oh, don’t let his shy little face fool you! He’s a handful like his daddy,” ChiChi says, before she turns to Vegeta with her palms up, disarmed. “I know, I know, no kids at the bar! Before you go kicking us out, I’m just stopping by to drop this off for you! You’re welcome!”

She lifts a plastic bag onto the counter full of to-go containers from her restaurant.

“I just ate.”

“So save it for later, Vegeta. If you keep eating that greasy shit my husband feeds you, you’re gonna get fat.”

Tch... If he had a dime for everytime the bitch chastised his lifestyle, or lack thereof, he could maybe settle his debts. “I have impeccable genes.”

“Says the man with the receding hairline.”

“Fuck you too, Chi.” Vegeta wags a middle finger, and the blue-haired girl covers the boy’s eyes. Not that the three year old hasn’t seen or heard it all before.

“I’m serious, Vegeta. I’ve seen the inside of your fridge. When are you gonna find yourself a nice girlfriend to take care of your sorry ass?”

“I don’t need taking care of.” He grabs the food from the bar, tossing a mean glare back to ChiChi’s smug visage before stuffing it into the nearest cooler. The blue-haired woman sits with her attention torn between the little soda sucking twerp and his mother.

“Are you single?” ChiChi asks her. “You seem like the type that likes a good challenge. This one’s been in a rut.” She tips her head in Vegeta’s direction.

“I thought you were leaving!”

“Oh keep your panties on. Is that any way to treat a fine chef who brought you a five star meal?”

“Wait, you’re a chef at King’s?” the woman cries. “I love that place!”

ChiChi smiles, a polite blush rising to her cheeks. “I’m the chef! ChiChi Son, formerly King.”

“Bulma Brief.” The woman extends her hand.

“Why does that sound familiar?”

“I’m the chef, you could say, at Capsule Corporation.”

“No way!” ChiChi squeals. “No offense, but what the hell are you doing in a dive like this?”

“I’m here for the eye candy,” she grins with a flick of her eyes toward where Vegeta, and now Kakarot too, stand. She downs the last few sips of her drink. “What was the third one called… Raditz?”

ChiChi laughs. “Yeah, I keep telling them to make a calendar.”

“So if Goku is a cook, why doesn’t he work at your restaurant with you?”

“There’s a lot of sharp knives in my kitchen, Bulma, and I’m not about to become a single mother.”

She picks up her son on her hip, letting him lean across the bar for her husband to kiss the top of his head.

“Afraid he’d hurt himself?”

“That too…” ChiChi smiles devilishly. “Love you Goku, see you at home!” She calls over her shoulder as she charges toward the front door.

“You want another drink?” Vegeta asks, once that hurricane of a woman has left.

“Yes!” Bulma smacks her palm against the bar. “Three shots!”

“Three?”

“I’m not drinking alone! What do you guys want? My treat!” She looks between the two of them. Presumably sensing that they are both about to refuse, she pounds her fists on the bar repeatedly like some roided frat boy. “Come on! The old ball and chain is gone, Goku… live a little!”

A squirly little giggle spurts from Kakarot’s lips as he glances around, like he’s worried his wife will pop up like a banshee and catch him misbehaving.

“I’m kidding, obviously. Your wife seems pretty rad, and I am definitely giving you my phone number to give to her before I leave. Doesn’t mean you can’t live a little now!”

“Alright! One shot,” he concedes.

Bulma turns her attention to Vegeta, “Don’t tell me you’re a lightweight outside of the ring too.”

Ugh… bitch…“Fine, fuck it.” Vegeta grabs a bottle of one of their better whiskeys. Hell, if she’s going to pay for it, why not? It doesn’t look like she’s planning on leaving any time soon. If he’s going to put up with the woman all night, he’ll need a good buzz.

He fills three shot glasses, which they chime together before they pour them down the hatch.

The glasses barely clunk against the counter when the front door swings open, and in struts Frieza’s man, some Australian Doctor Rockso with a bad case of rosacea. He makes a beeline toward them, and before he can open his mouth, Vegeta’s tipping his head toward the kitchen door and slipping inside, thankful that the sycophant has the acuity to mutely follow.

The duffle he’s lugged over his shoulder thuds against the office desk, and Vegeta’s stomach bottoms out hearing the weight of it land. Jeice is grinning as he unzips it and buries his ruddy hands inside. It’s loaded with a hundred grand in cash, minimum.

“Check it out, mate! It’s beautiful!”

“Uh huh…” Vegeta scrunches his nose as he watches him fondle the rolls of bills like a serial killer with his fists stuffed in a bag of severed tits. “When does Frieza expect his laundry done by?”

“A month,” Jeice shrugs. “The usual.”

“How does he expect me to float that through this place in a month without lifting a few eyebrows?”

Jeice’s own eyebrows twist for a moment as he ponders the question. “Well I dunno, mate. I’m just bringing it ‘round.” He seems bummed, like it’s his birthday party, and the magician dared to pull the curtain on a trick. He tears his hands from the bag and zips it back up. “We good?”

“Guess I’ll find out.” Vegeta doesn’t know how he’s going to launder a hundred grand in a month through a dive bar that’s lucky to break thirty, but he doesn’t have the option to refuse.

“You mind?” Jeice asks, though he’s already wrapping his lips around the bottle of whiskey before Vegeta can respond either way. “Ahh….” he sighs and holds the bottle out.

Fuck it. It’s not like he has much to lose now. Overindulgence pales in comparison to what lies in store if he can’t pass the bar in this shit task. Vegeta snags the bottle from the clown’s hands and takes a long pull.

He escorts Frieza’s lackey back through the bar with his shoulders hunched in defeat. His day of reckoning is drawing closer, and he’s starting to weigh his options in a more concrete mindset than before, wondering just how bad prison can be compared to taking a hot bullet to the dome. It’ll be one or the other, eventually.

The woman peers over the top of her computer to watch Jeice duck under the bar and slip out the backdoor.

Looking back to her screen, she starts to read aloud. “The Prince of Boxing Abdicates his Crown. Vegeta Saiyan Jr., better known by his moniker ‘The Prince’ was admitted to West City Hospital after an assault and robbery on First Avenue and Park in what’s rumored to be a career-ending blow.”

“What of it?” Now she was looking him up, reading old headlines aloud?

“Just a little preliminary research on my patient. Says here it was a tire iron. Ouch.”

“Three of them. And it’s none of your business, because I never agreed to your little experiment.”

“Why not?” she whines at a bratty toddler-level pitch, kicking at the bar with her lips jutted out in a pout. “You have nothing to lose. If it works—and let’s be real, I’m a genius. It’ll work—Vegeta, you’ll be able to fight again!”

“Look, even if I wanted to get back in the ring again, I can’t. So drop it.”

“Is this because of the boogeymen?” Her eyes flick knowingly toward the backdoor where Jeice had made his exit.

Either she’s the most discerning drunkard on the planet, or the woman was up to something long before she waltzed into his bar, cruising him like a cat in heat. Did she profile him for this hairbrained foray in nanobiotics—some mission to find the perfect lab monkey she can take apart and frankenstein back together? Or is it something else she’s after, he wonders, leaning across the counter with his eyes pinned to her pretty blues. The alcohol thats traversing through his system like a rush hour subway has him feeling a little braver than before. If she’s got a game twirling around in her self-proclaimed brilliant mind, he’ll suss it out.

“What exactly do you know, woman?” he growls under his breath.

Bulma shifts toward him. With their faces inches apart, she runs her tongue across her lips, parting them like she’s about to answer—leaving aggressive curiosity to be but one emotion that’s pulsing through him as his focus softens, hypnotized by the pink, fleshy pillows of her mouth. But the woman’s attention suddenly whips toward the thwack of the front door, and Vegeta snaps out of his daze. His attention follows hers to where Raditz is stumbling inside, completely shitfaced, with the loudmouth psycho blonde he brings around from time to time following at his heels.

“Oh shit!” the woman cries. “Beefy boy numero uno!”

Bulma leaps from her stool as Raditz and the blonde make their way over. She jumps up his tall frame to wrap her arms around the goon’s neck.

An unwelcome blast of hot blood floods Vegeta’s skull as he watches Raditz grope her ass while she drunkenly hugs him. For the life of him, he tries to push the feeling down. Maybe it’s just the shots heating his face, but he can’t help but notice the pleasure that replaces the heat when Raditz’s date inserts herself between them.

“Hey missy, what’s the big idea?” Launch rips Bulma off him by the shoulder and holds up her fist. “Back off, unless you wanna eat my knuckles!”

Raditz makes no effort to separate them. His shiteating grin stretches from ear to ear seeing two beautiful women threaten to draw blood over his dumb ass.

“What! No!” Bulma’s hands jump up between them, and she laughs. “You’ve got the wrong idea! I’m not interested in him!

It’s priceless, the way the words roll off her tongue, so blunt they’re almost mocking, and Vegeta pours himself another shot. Watching Raditz’s smile droop upside down at Bulma’s tipsy insult is worth it.

Launch cocks her head with a flip of her frizzy mane over her shoulder. “What are you trying to say?” Her eyes are focused on Bulma in two narrow slits that Vegeta’s sure will lazer cut the woman in half.

“Nothing! Just saying hello is all. Come on, I’ll buy you guys a round,” she deflects, spinning on her heels before Launch can uncross her arms. Bulma saunters back to her seat with that batshit broad and Raditz trailing close behind.

“Okay, Vegeta! Five more.” She smacks the counter.

“I’m not doing another. I just had one.”

Bulma narrows her eyes. “Don’t make me say it, girly boy.”

She just did. She can make fun of him all she wants for being a lightweight, but he’s already feeling the drinks he’s had, and someone has to stay sober to run the place. It isn’t even nine o’clock.

“Sorry guys! I’m on dad duty tomorrow. You’re on your own!” Kakarot leaves them to make the rounds, refilling drinks along the bar.

“See! Goku will watch the bar, Vegeta. You’re off the hook, so drink up!”

“Good luck, Bulma, but Vegeta is allergic to fun,” Raditz smirks, wrapping his arms around the blonde at his hip who practically strangles him as she takes his earlobe between her teeth. Vegeta quickly tears his gaze away from the vulgar exhibition and looks back to Bulma, whose doe eyes plead like the spoiled princess he now knows she is.

“Fuck, woman. Fine! You are a terrible person, for the record.”

“Yay! I’m okay with that!” Bulma claps. The others whoop loudly as they shoot their drinks. Vegeta takes his without the obnoxious fanfare.

“Do you wanna play a game?” asks Raditz.

“Oh! Always! What did you have in mind?” She’s bouncing in her seat like a carnie just signaled her coaster. Even watching her is making him nauseous.

“Real simple. I ask a question, and we all count to three and point at whoever we think most likely fits the description. Majority rules. The amount of fingers is the amount of shots the accused has to take. For example… Who is most likely to limp home from the bar tonight?” His lips curl sadistically when his and Bulma’s fingers land on Vegeta.

Launch stops groping Raditz just long enough to point at him too. “Oh right! ‘Cause he’s a gimp.”

“Fuck you.”

“Oh, I can fuck you up little boy!” she threatens.

“Alright, alright, calm down. That was a practice round. Y’all got it though?”

“Yeeeep!” Bulma grins. “Can I go first?”

“Do it up!”

“Most likely to hit a girl?”

There’s zero deliberation. All fingers land on Launch.

“Hell yeah! I win. Give ‘em here!”

“Baby, the point is not to lose,” Raditz tries to explain. He scoops up the bottle and shot glasses that still sit in front of them and pours three for Launch.

“These are coming out of your paycheck, I hope you know!”

“Oh shut up, Vegeta,” Bulma scolds. “I’m rich. I’ll buy the whole damn bottle if it will get you to dislodge that stick from your ass.”

“Damn, Vegeta. I think she’s got you pegged. No pun intended,” Raditz smirks and turns to Launch. “Alright, baby you’re up.”

A wicked gleam flashes in the woman’s eyes, and Vegeta knows before she’s even lifted her peace fingers to her lips that it’s going to be lewd. “MVP between the folds,” Launch says, and performs some vile party trick, undulating her tongue in waves between the V of her fingers, all the while eyeing Bulma with a look that’s equal parts pure evil and seductive.

Raditz of course points to himself, and Launch’s lips spread over a toothy, twisted smile as she waits for the other two to make their choice.

“Well after that demonstration.” Bulma turns her finger on Launch, which the lunatic seems to appreciate. Bulma avoided her trap and is rewarded with a wink and a kiss of the air between them.

“What’ll it be Vegeta?” asks Raditz.

“How the fuck am I supposed to know?”

“That’s the whole point, man. Take a guess!”

Despite not wanting to feed the crazy woman any more shots, he isn’t going to point at Raditz and give him the satisfaction. Reluctantly, he extends a finger to Launch too.

“What!” Raditz cries. “You guys suck at this game!”

“Oh don’t worry, baby. Just means I’m good with my tongue is all.” She slips the extremity inside Raditz’s ear, and Vegeta tries not to barf as he pours her two shots.

“This game is disgusting. I’m done,” he says, yanking the bottle back behind the bar.

“Don’t be a buzzkill, Vegeta! Relax for once in your life.” Bulma’s calling him out like she knows him, like he’s a two-dimensional paper doll that she’s already learned how to fold. She doesn’t even wait for him to refuse. “You’re up again, Launch!”

The psycho slams the shot glasses back to the bar, one by one, and her bangs fluff with a horse-like huff before she asks, “Most likely to die a virgin?”

In a fraction of a second, three fingers are speared in his direction, all but his own, which he tucks under his arms as he steps back to glower at their faces—all of them sickly taunting, as if they’ve shared some inside joke for years and finally let him in on the punchline. It’s him. He’s the goddamn punchline. What the hell? Is he wearing a sign or something? The way they’re all staring at him with smug, knowing grins feels like there’s some marquee above his head that spells out P-R-U-D-E in big, flashing bulbs.

“Nice try. I’m not a virgin.”

“Yeah, okay man.” Raditz rolls his eyes. “But, even if that’s somehow true, that’s not how the game works. Drink up!”

“Launch doesn’t get a vote.”

“She gets yours, since you forfeited your finger. Three shots!”

“I said I wasn’t playing anymore.”

“Come on, Vegeta please!” Bulma whines through pouty lips. After meeting her mere hours ago, he’s learned enough about her to know that she’s used to getting her way, batting her big blues at anything with a dick, or without a dick, in Launch’s case. Maybe it’s a conspiracy, some sort of sick game they’re playing at his expense, like Raditz is some twisted bookie trading bets on whether or not the woman can seduce him. Maybe the whole bar is in on it… The room teeters around his head as he takes stock of the fools that fill the space; though none appear to be paying attention.

“Don’t be a pussy, Vegeta,” Launch chides.

“Goddammit! This is the last time! And I’m only taking two!” Downing his shots with a hiss, Vegeta tries to quell the lurch of his stomach that protests as they settle. He jerks the bottle back behind the bar. It’s not a loss; this is a forfeit. If he doesn’t play, he can’t lose. Besides, their game is fucking rigged. “You’re all cut off. I’ll be in the back. Kakarot!”

The dope turns to him and nods, understanding his role.

Vegeta slouches in the office chair, glancing about the cluttered space for anything to steal his attention from the sinkhole where it’s currently drowning. But the harder he tries, the more his vision coils, round and round, like springs are loading behind his eyes and will pop off at any moment. He presses the heels of his palms to his sockets and tries to quell the urge to vomit. Ugh… Fuck. Why did he do that? He hasn’t drank that much since his slump after his surgeries—not that he’s climbed out of that miserable hole completely.

This random woman has managed to dig her french manicured claws into his skull in a matter of hours. He feels sucker punched by her, completely blindsided despite observing her antics with the same acuity she displayed toward him. Fuck… he actually likes her. If liquor is the elixir of truth, he will woefully admit, if only to himself, that the strange girl has him whipped. For the first time since his father’s death, or if he’s being completely honest, since his dive or lack thereof that ended his career, he feels good… almost hopeful. It’s hope, this new feeling, isn’t it?

God fucking dammit! How the hell did this happen? He’s the fucking prince… or he was the prince. Now he’s what?... Your subpar, neighborhood barkeep whose baseline personality lives somewhere between an old man screaming at the youngins’ to get the fuck out and a self-pitying wet blanket, grumbling at the actual senior citizens—the regular alcoholics he knows by name for offering the most basic pleasantries. He’s a fucking money launderer, a goddamn gimp, a prig and a bastard. That’s all. He’s got nothing to offer the salacious bitch. So why the hell is she flirting with him?... Or is she flirting with him? Is it all in his head? She was friendly with the two thumbless nitwits in his employ, too.

“Hey Geta!” Vegeta tears his head up from the desk where he’s inexplicably passed out. “It’s ten-thirty. Kitchen’s all closed up. Do you need me to stay?”

“No, Kakarot. I’ve got it,” he says, wiping spit from his chin.

“You sure? You seem kinda drunk.”

“I’m fine, dumbass!” The last thing he needs right now is that overgrown baby’s parental concern.

Vegeta wanders back into the bar, blinking away the haze from his vision. It’s packed, more so than usual. He expected to see Raditz and Launch still hovering around Bulma, but they’re at the other end of the crowd, shooting the breeze with Satan and his comrades. In their place next to her are a new set of customers.

A short, bald man with an odd tattoo running down the center of his forehead makes eye contact over the top of his beer glass. Vegeta ignores him, more interested in the pretty boy next to him. The man looks like an eighties cover band, some blowhard with a scar across his face who thinks he’s Nikki Sixx, but even after a fire and a lobotomy, doesn’t even come close. He’s bent in quiet conversation with the girl and scoots his stool closer, tossing his dark, fluffy hair behind his shoulder with a flick of his thick head. They seem awfully chummy, and Vegeta wonders if she knows him. His teeth grind together without his consent, and a flush heats his face as he watches her, trying to discern the dynamic, trying to chill his blood back to the corpse-level cool that is his usual public posture.

“Hey, junior! Can we get some refills down here?” Satan calls.

Vegeta grumbles a well-intentioned threat under his breath and makes his way down the bar to attend to his patrons. He can’t believe the treacherous woman would spend all night clearly trying to pick him up, and the moment he lets down his guard, falls for her, at least in his own mind, she’s moved on to her next victim. By the time he returns to the other end, Scarface has his hand on Bulma’s thigh, and she isn’t brushing him off. She’s smiling at him and leans toward him, giggling at whatever gibberish is drawling from his hideous mouth.

But then her eyes suddenly flick up to meet his, nailing Vegeta to the floor. For a long moment, he forgets to breathe. The edges of his vision are nothing but a mess of muddy colors and dingy lights, and in the center is her, looking up at him in bright pastels, the dayglo hues of summer. He’s a stupid, fucking idiot, and she’s both a goddess of the likes he’s never dreamed of meeting and a tramp.

It takes a moment to realize he’s been caught watching her, that she’s smirking at him with her fleshy, bubblegum lips. But whatever pathetic bastion of confidence and self-control he’d been trying to defend over the course of this shitshow of a shift crumbles in the blink of an eye. Vegeta turns away. Like some puny, little amateur, a coward facing his first hulking catchweight, he quickly tucks tail and darts back through the kitchen door.

What the hell is wrong with him? His heart is racing, thudding with the weight of rhino but at the speed of hamster, while his stomach kicks and churns, threatening to upchuck his dinner at the mere after-image of that man’s hand on the girl—not that he has any claim to her. He just feels cheated, somehow. She dangled a carrot all damn night when he didn’t even want it in the first place, then snatched it away the moment he gave in to flirt with that dimwitted mullet… the bitch. He tries to reverse his mind’s earlier conclusions that he likes her. She’s annoying... so annoying... But she isn’t annoying. That’s the problem. She’s beautiful, and her smile makes him weak at his already compromised knees!

He can’t bring himself to go back out on the floor. Kakarot’s gone, and his only other employee in the building is completely wasted and off duty. He has to go back out there before the animals start fending for themselves. But rather than finding his feet leading him to the front of the bar, they retreat further into the office. And suddenly, he finds himself sat back at his desk, hiding, wallowing in self pity. That fucking cunt messed with his head, and on top of everything else! She offered him an out… half of one. She can’t fix the financial fuckery that will catch up with him one way or another. But she can give him a fighting chance if what she claimed about her clinical trial is true. Fuck her and her stupid candy-ass lips. He imagines they really do taste like candy, plump and sugary sweet like gummy worms. Shit… fuck!

Vegeta pours himself one from his personal stash. Don’t think about her. He begs his slushy mind not to think at all and stares blurrily at the wall, at his father’s photos, debating what the fuck he’s supposed to do with his life. Selling the bar, hightailing it to some remote equatorial island and changing his name seems like the best option. Canes and fedoras are en vogue there right? He can just be drunk on rum the rest of his short life and get a tan. Forget about her. Forget about Frieza and the ghost of his old man. Forget all of them. Fuck ‘em.

A knock at the door has him lurching from his tropical reverie. One big blue eye peeps from the crack. The hell? Just when he’d almost consigned the highclass hussy to a sunny, sandy oblivion, she’s barging through his door.

“Did Raditz let you back here, or do you just think you own everything?”

She doesn’t answer. Her lips bear the semblance of a smile, just enough to showcase her prowess at winding him up like it’s too easy. She slips inside the room and clicks the door shut with a bump against her ass, locking it behind her.

“Take off your pants,” she commands.

“What?” Oh, he heard her clearly…

“If you’re having dirty thoughts, that’s on you. I just want to examine your knee before I go.”

He peers at her with as much malice as he can muster in his condition and shakes his head. But he can’t stop the breath that lodges in his throat like a gumball, watching her saunter toward him. Despite the twenty fucking drinks she’s had, her steps are smooth as a slinking cat until she’s standing above him.

“Don’t make me rip them off you,” she says, placing one hand on each armrest, jutting her face within an inch of his own. Her eyes bore into his as if she’s trying to spot an opening—trying to pierce his skull and read the slurred thoughts that slug across the synapses of his brain.

“I’m pretty sure this is illegal,” he grunts out.

“There’s the phone,” Bulma nods to the desk without turning her gaze from his. “Report me.”

One hand moves to the waistline of his jeans, the tips of her fingers pulling up the hem of his shirt to play with the button. A smile, bawdy and brazen, breaks across her face as his entire body stiffens below her fingertips. If she’s a doctor, she’s a cheap porno movie version of one. Yet despite her transparently piss-poor excuse to have her way, he isn’t saying no. And there are dozens of logical reasons to do just that, to shove her off and make a comeback in this match. But as she takes hold of the button of his pants, unthreading it from its counterpart, his monkey brain overrides all rational thought. Vegeta can’t hold back the sharp suck of breath through his teeth as she unzips his jeans, grinning victoriously as she traces the zipper over his obvious arousal.

“If you’re going to make me do all the work, Vegeta, I’m gonna need you to at least lift your hips.”

He sits frozen in the chair, taking in her words. They slip into his head, and he understands what she’s asking, but he can’t get his body to move. It’s the same old resistance that ended him. He doesn’t want to lose.

“I… uh...” It’s like his entire being, mind and all, is stuck under a spell of indecision. His limbs won’t lift, and whatever he’s trying to say won’t leave his lips. Only weak noises escape them as her fingertips trace upward over the thin material of his boxers and move across his lower abdomen beneath his shirt to grip the waistband of his jeans.

“You… what? You seem to me like someone who’s never taken anything for himself, except maybe once, and it backfired, didn’t it? This bar is your father’s. Those fights were your father’s and the boogeyman’s, whoever he is. Your knee was a casualty of that one fight you refused to lose, wasn’t it? The one time you didn’t dive, you lost what was yours. And now you’re scared.”

Her lips inch closer as she speaks until they’re touching, lightly brushing against his own with their noses pressed together. “Take a dive,” she whispers through gin soaked breath.

Do it, a voice at the back of his head demands. It’s a voice that’s his, sounds like his, but he doesn’t recognize the motive. A part of him wonders if it’s genetic, if it’s the same demon that ran his father’s depraved life of hookup after meaningless hookup. Maybe he’s just as weak. Or maybe… this is something else. Maybe this is a form of control, some slice of life that he actually deserves. It can’t break his chains, not entirely, but maybe it can offer a bit of light in his bleak world, a conjugal visit of sorts. His father was a sonofabitch, but not without reason. Maybe this was his reason for chasing skirts like it was his last day on Earth, because for all his old man knew, it easily could have been. His father had been beholden to the syndicate for so long, he had nothing else to lose and nothing else to offer. And now, Vegeta is in the same position, only worse thanks to his fucking knee. Do it.

Unclenching his teeth, he closes the minuscule gap, pressing their mouths together as he wraps his hands around her waist and yanks her into his lap. She grinds her hips against him and grips the back of his neck almost urgently, like he’s an oxygen mask and she’s desperate for air. Her tongue slides into his mouth, rolling across his own in flowing, sinuous movements as her pelvis continues to sway against his lap, each rock of her hips expertly articulated. She’s both a serpent and a charmer, and he’s neither, just a mope that’s transfixed under her spell. And what a spell it is. She’s feeding him, and he’s been fucking starving. He catches her plump bottom lip between his teeth. It’s juicier and sweeter than he imagined—like biting into a ripe, tropical fruit, and it floods his senses with a fiendish high. He could feast on her mouth forever and still crave more.

Breaths of air are desperately stolen in sharp huffs through their noses until they’re forced to break away, panting. Her chest heaves as she recovers her air, and Vegeta’s hands slide up her back over the silky material of her shirt, pressing his palms against her to urge her toward him again. A small, insatiable taste of heaven, that’s what she gave him, and he pulls against her grip, ready to take the rest and devour her whole. But she’s holding him to the chair at arm’s length with her hands weighted against his shoulders.

“What do you want, Vegeta?” She tips her head and presses her lips together, like it’s some litmus test. Her elbows are locked, refusing to let him lean into her until he answers.

Vegeta shakes his head and shrugs. Admitting what he wants out loud is as good as admitting defeat. He won’t let her win. She wants the same thing. She’s been gunning for this from the moment she waltzed into his bar, and even now, he can feel the heat bleed from her body like an arteriole wound. His palms move back and forth over the top of her skirt, his fingers feeling the folds where the material is pulled up to bunch at her hips. Let her bleed. He won’t give in.

She lets go, lets her hands slide from his shoulders and down his chest, each fingertip releasing their pressure to featherlight, then none at all as she lifts from his lap to stand—the loss of contact so fast, his mind barely has the time to contend with it. He only feels the chill when her body leaves his frame, and it’s like his own blood is flash frozen. All his lofty expectations are sunk to the bottom of a deep, dark pool. She’s outmaneuvered him. She’ll win either way. She’s been in control of this whole thing from the start. Before she can turn to leave, Vegeta’s hand snatches her wrist fast as an uppercut.

“I’ll do it,” he says, a concession he knows he’ll probably regret later. But right now, he’ll give her whatever she wants if it will make her stay.

“Do what?”

“Your clinical trial or whatever. I want in.”

“What else?” she asks. She’s got her head cocked to the side, ignoring the tight grip he has on her wrist as if she knows it’s all for show. Her eyelids hover half closed under her thick, batting lashes. She’s determined to not just win, but to spare nothing.

He pauses for a moment before he asks, “Is it bad practice to fuck your doctor?”

“I’m not your doctor yet…”

As she looks down at him, waiting, it’s like he’s back in that ring, playing the moment over in his head, watching his opponent swing in slow motion, knowing that if he ducks the punch and jabs back for a knockout he’ll lose worse in the long run. Dive! the voice shouts.

Without another thought, he swallows his pride and listens. He yanks her back into his lap, dropping her wrist to wrench her skirt up over her hips. Her arms wind around his neck, and each of his palms grip her bare ass as he stands, lifting her with him to drop her on the desk. A pained cry leaves his throat as the quick action torques his knee and a sharp pain shoots from the joint to radiate through every nerve like a shock of lightning. Vegeta lifts his bum leg from the ground, hopping on the other to wail in agony, “Fuck me! Goddammit!”

“I’m trying!” Bulma teases, propping herself up on her elbows to watch him shake off his outburst. His heart is racing for two reasons as the heel of her foot hooks the thigh of his good leg, and he tests the weight of the other before stepping between her legs.

Bulma sits up and yanks the front of his boxers. The cool air he expects to hit him never comes. Instead, he feels her warm palm twining around him, and he almost spills himself right then and there at the tight pressure of her grip and her thumb that begins to brush over his head in circles to lubricate it with precum. Watching her from beneath half closed eyelids, he’s suspended in an odd state of subdued hyper-stimulation, like she’s some hypnotist. He’s relaxed, for the most part, but his cock aches and throbs watching as she traces her tongue across her upper lip and lets go to lay back against the desk. She dips her thumb in her mouth, pulling it out with a pop. Her heels pull on the backs of his thighs to draw him closer.

“You’re on the clock,” she smirks.

“Fuck, woman, don’t rush me.”

He leans over her, bracing himself above her on one arm as he wraps his other hand around his cock to guide it between her legs. A rumbling moan leaves her throat as he pushes himself inside and begins to slowly move his hips against her. Goddammit, she’s warm, and the pressure around his dick as she grips him threatens to undo him like some teenage tenderfoot—not that he effectively isn’t one. As he moves against her, pushing in deep with every slow and painstaking thrust, he forces his mind to conjure an image of anything else to keep from immediately blowing his load—Kakarot’s stupid smile, Jeice’s ugly red-tinged mug, anything besides the girl whose legs are hogtied around his hips, strangling out the sweetest most incomprehensible sounds as he slides in and out of her snug center. Her hands twine into his hair at the back of his neck, pulling his lips to hers. Fuck, if defeat ever felt or tasted this good, he’d have done it more often. He slips his thick arms beneath her shoulders to hold her body closer, trying to press every inch of their flesh together. A part of him regrets that they didn’t bother to undress. He’d do anything to feel the heat of her skin pressed against his. But then again, maybe it’s for the best. The way she’s panting and whimpering into his ear, clenching her thighs around him keep dropping his odds. His ability to maintain composure is becoming a long shot bet.

The door handle rattles, and a fist beats loudly against the pane, “Come on, man! I’m not clocked in! What the hell are you doing?”

Goddammit! Fucking jackass.

Feeling oddly watched with Raditz standing with just a slab of thin wood between them Vegeta quickens his pace, which prompts Bulma to cry out his name, a sound so sinfully sweet, he’s forced to bite his tongue.

“Oh shit!” Hearing her, Raditz pounds his fists against the door in a fury of approval. “Hell yeah buddy!”

Ach! Fuck! Vegeta knows the pervert will stand out there and listen, probably has his ear pressed against the door right now.

“Harder,” the girl sputters, a breathy command against his ear. Her hands fist the material of his shirt, pulling his lips back down to catch hers, and he propels his hips against her with a force that makes her squeal and wind her arms around his head, burying her face in the crook of his neck, fixing him in place with her teeth digging into his shoulder to muffle the sounds. He rutts into her faster and harder like she asks, but he can’t hold out for much longer.

A tightening pressure tugs and pulses around him, and she dislodges her teeth from his flesh, wailing sharply into his ear. He hopes it’s what he thinks it means. If she hasn’t come yet, he’s fucked. Hard as he tries, he can’t stop him himself. A wave of ecstasy rushes through every nerve like the release of a pressure gauge that’s been building all damned night. It’s fucking transcendental—every pain and negative thought abandoned ten exits behind him, and even if he can’t see two feet ahead, the here and now is a free high that’s ripping through every cell. He buries his face against her to stifle his voice, pressing his lips against her collar as he comes. Her fingernails slowly release their grip from his hair to run over his scalp, and it feels like forever that they’re pressed together like that, catching their breath. Vegeta finally works up the energy to lift his face from the dip of her neck, and is surprised when she pulls him in to kiss her.

“Not so bad for a middle aged hag,” she says, watching him with an eye that’s oddly careful as he pulls out to readjust himself and zip his pants.

“A what? Believe me woman, you’re not–”

“It’s okay.” She says, smiling as she sits up, pulling her thong back in place and shimming her skirt back over her hips. “It’s just… You just never asked to see my ID.”

What the hell? Was she still upset about the stupid teenagers? Did she not notice how hard it was for him to last for two fucking minutes? “Are you seriously upset that I didn’t ID you?”

“Kind of,” she shrugs her eyebrows, but she’s still sporting a peculiar smile and hops from the desk to step into his bubble. A fingernail traces his jawline, and she darts her tongue out to lick his lips. “You thought I was thirty.”

“Sorry...” What the fuck is he supposed to say? She’s a goddamned babe, and clearly, he isn’t a great judge of age.

“So ask for it now,” she says, almost breathily as she presses her mouth to his and slips a hand down the inseam of his thigh. “Tell me you need to see my ID.”

Is she fucking kidding? Is this some sort of role play? She wants to go at it again? Maybe she was faking her orgasm, and she figures he’ll last longer in a rematch. Her hand is already feeling between his legs, and despite not fully recovering, he closes his eyes, exhaling softly as he tries to conjure up the energy.

Vegeta wraps an arm around her hips and grudgingly mutters, “I need to see your ID.”

“Of course! With a face like this, I get that all the time.” She bats her eyes in exaggeration and pats her chest as she saunters backward from his arms, pulling her leather bag across the desk toward her. Clearly committed to the role, she digs inside for a small billfold and flips it open. A shiny, gold crested badge unfolds from her wallet, sparkling in the lamplight. Vegeta’s eyes pop wide open, snapped sober as they take in each and every point of its starred edges, sharp as whip lashes. The post-coital fog drains from his head, and he can plainly read the letters W.C.P.D. embossed across its center.

“Oh, fuck me.” The words slip nearly muted between his dumbstruck lips.

“Oh, I think I just did,” she grins and tosses the badge to the desk, which thunks as it hits the table, cratering any sliver of hope that it’s a prop, and she’s an overachieving stripper purchased by Raditz—a grand gag played at his expense. Of course, that’s impossibly the case. Raditz doesn’t have the wherewithal to zip his pants after a shit, let alone orchestrate some boss-level practical joke.

“You lied to me?” He spits the words through clenched teeth, expelling them like poison, trying his best to dampen his immediate rage and grapple with the idea that Bulma fucking Brief had been playing him all night long. She knew who he was, and she shook him out like fucking chump change.

“Technically, just an omission.” Bulma steps back to hop onto his desk, dancing her ankles like she’s proud of herself.

Anger surges between his temples in hot, pulsing waves. The bitch duped him. All fucking night, she toyed with his emotions and made him promises she never intended to deliver. Hope had peeked from the horizon of his perpetual despair, only to be ground back below the earth by the heel of her sharp stilettos.

“Is this how you catch criminals, lie to them and fuck them first? Are you going to arrest me?”

She scoots further back on the desk to casually prop her palms behind her. Her head tips to the side. A smirk, sick and gloating turns up at the corners of her lips. “That depends.”

“On what?”

“On your cooperation.”

What the fuck does that mean? His cooperation in what? He doesn’t realize his own lips are pulled in a snarl watching her recline further, hiking one long, milky thigh over the other as she explains, “You see, yours isn’t the only business beholden to the boogeyman. My father’s is too, and I’m going to take the entire syndicate down, one crony at a time. You have a choice, Vegeta. You keep doing what you’re doing, only you report to me now. That, or my two colleagues at the bar and I bring you in tonight.”

Is she kidding? “You want me to be an informant? Bitch, you don’t have to be a cop to know what happens to fucking rats. And it’s not like I have much in the way of defense.” He gestures to his bum leg.

“I wasn’t lying about the clinical trial. That’s all real. Only, I’m not running it. My father is. You agree, you get in, you get your leg back and you avoid prison. You help me take them down. Capisce?”

“Capisce? You think I trust you now after…” His hand flails between them. He can’t even say the words. He feels like a cheap whore… worse than cheap. That was fucking free.

“Yeah, sorry about that.” She has the gall to roll her eyes. “I wasn’t expecting you be such a hot piece of ass, and what can I say? A girl has needs.”

Her cheeky smile seems to suggest that even if he divulges the fact that she fucked him to anyone in any city precinct, nobody will believe his word over hers… except maybe Raditz. Is the drunken fool still hanging around, he wonders, knowing the moron has likely long since wandered off… Not that the idiot’s testimony is even worth a used napkin. He’s fucked. He’s so fucking fucked.

“What’s it gonna be? You got the balls to dive into the deep end big boy?”

Vegeta’s nostrils flare with every searing breath that threatens to split his face in two. He’ll never last in prison, not this way, too maimed to stand without a wince, let alone defend himself. Frieza won’t protect him because he’s not technically one of his cronies, but an obedient captive. Balls have nothing to do with it. He’ll have to play her game. He doesn’t have a choice. But he can’t lower himself to say the words. She won. She more than won. This wasn’t just a knockout; she put him down like a little bitch, dug him a hole and laid him out permanently. And she’s proud of it. That’s the worst part, the way she’s looking at him now, kicking her heels in victory, knowing she won much more than she came for, and he can’t say shit about it. She studied him all night, found an opening, took advantage of his shortcomings. He’d been on the defense from the beginning and didn’t stand a chance.

Yet as she stares at him with that smug grin smeared across her face, Vegeta’s suddenly struck with realization—one so obvious and potentially gratifying he would punch himself if he was capable. She could have cornered him far more easily and earlier in the night, pulled that badge the moment she walked into his bar, but didn’t. Instead, she dawdled, played this undercover game, but for what? It was clear now. Bulma gave up her weakness the moment she raked her eyes over his body like some horny housewife lacing lemonade for the poolboy. This match isn’t over. She assumes she’s won, but she’s not quite as clever as she thinks.

He crosses his arms as a cocksure smile peels up the corners of his lips.

“Fine, woman,” he says, letting his grin chisel hers down to a dubious pulp. “I’m all yours.” And he means that in more ways than one. He’ll take a dive alright… Bulma fucking Brief will rue the day she dared to fuck with the Saiyan Prince.

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