For the whatever it is that I signed up for on dA!

It's not really "mature," so to speak, but there is a little bit of violence (obviously). No railing at me for Yamcha beating on Bulma! I don't know that canon Yamcha would ever do that, but hey, he was a bandit and you have to admit that the stuff Bulma wears is awfully... tempting. And no one actually knows just why Bulma left him for Vegeta, so I suppose that this is as good an idea as any.

And I'm working on DP. Honest. :)

The Hat

Vegeta stood in a darkened room, far away from the cacophony of noise that The Woman called a "party." He had never heard of such a thing, though he supposed he could be forgiven, considering the fact that he had been stuck on Frieza's ship from the age of five. Celebrations were uncommon, unless the tyrant happened to get one up on his brother Cooler. Even then, they tended to end in a drunken mess, and the Saiyan often had to hide himself away from the general populace or else risk being attacked. It was a shameful and cowardly thing to do, but he wasn't stupid enough to risk being killed, even if he would become stronger as a result of the beating.

A noise distracted him from his musings. Two people had come into the darkened room. Vegeta quickly melted into the shadows, not wanting whoever it was to try and drag him back to the party. He sneered when he realized that it was The Woman and that pathetic human Yamcha. Considering that this room held a bed, the Saiyan prince had no problems guessing what was about to happen. He was halfway out the door when he heard the smack of a hand against a face. He smirked for a half-second, laughing internally at the inept fighter's bad luck with The Woman, but paused when he heard the exclamation of pain. No matter how bad a fighter the idiot was, a slap from The Woman shouldn't have hurt. "Yamcha, let go of me!" The Woman said angrily, a touch of panic coloring her voice. "I'm not a whore that you can just sleep with whenever you want! We're through, in case you can't remem-" She was cut off by another slap.

"Then why are you teasing me, huh?" the scarred man asked, just as angry. "Maybe you should think about what you're doing before you shake your hips right in front of me!" Vegeta could smell the alcohol from across the room. He briefly considered leaving the two alone - as much of an idiot as Yamcha was, he was right in that The Woman was a terrible tease. But this new thing called a conscience nagged at him - The Woman was (or would be) alone with an angry, drunken fighter who could rip her apart in two seconds flat if he was pushed too far. And if Vegeta knew The Woman (and he did), Yamcha would hit that breaking point quickly.

Seeing the other man's arm rise, Vegeta rolled his eyes. It looked like he'd have to step in after all. In the blink of an eye, he stood by the other man and knocked him out. "Are you all right?" he asked gruffly, eyeing The Woman.

She nodded shakily as she stood up from the bed. "Yeah..." she said quietly, and made her way over to the vanity, kicking the downed fighter as she passed him. She must have sensed his raised eyebrow, because she said, "I know it doesn't hurt him, but it sure makes me feel better."

She turned on the light and Vegeta's eyes narrowed as he took in her appearance. She was wearing a conservative (for The Woman) red dress that had long sleeves, though the skirt only went down to her mid-thighs. It was trimmed in what looked like white fur. Her black flat boots were knee-high. In short, she was dressed incredibly strangely, even for The Woman. His sharp eyesight picked up on the already forming bruises on either cheekbone. He also couldn't help but notice her figure, outlined as she was by the light that she had flicked on to better see her face.

"Shit," The Woman sighed, and he could only guess that she had noticed the bruises as well. She rubbed her eyes suddenly and the Saiyan caught the faint scent of salt water. He also picked up the faint "I will not cry" mantra that she was chanting under her breath. After a few deep breaths, she turned to Vegeta, who tensed slightly. He could still see unshed tears and he was NOT going to be a Kleenex for The Woman's relationship troubles. However, she surprised him.

"I'm sorry to have to ask you this, but could you take me to my room?" she asked, still quiet. "If I go through there, it'll just cause a lot of trouble. I need to cover these bruises up." She bent down to pick up a scrap of cloth that matched her dress. The action revealed her white panties and the Saiyan looked away quickly lest she catch him looking.

"Yes, because painting your face will fool everyone," Vegeta said snarkily. The Woman was too quiet for his liking - it unsettled him.

Unfortunately, his retort only drew a strange smile from her. "It's worked for the past two years, Vegeta," she replied grimly, going to open a window. "People will see what they want to see. You should know that."

Vegeta blinked in shock. This had been going on for two years? "Why haven't you told Kakarotto?" he sputtered. An inelegant snort was his answer as The Woman came closer to him and grabbed his hand, pulling him to the window she had opened.

"Do you really think that Goku would believe me?" she asked, sounding resigned. "In case you haven't noticed, he's really loyal to his fellow fighters. I don't think he's capable of believing something bad about anyone." She stepped out and looked at him impatiently. "I can climb the vines, but it'd be way easier if you'll fly me up to my balcony."

Rolling his eyes at her bossy attitude, (although secretly grateful that it was back - a quiet Woman was too out of the norm for him to be comfortable), he stepped out of the window as well and grabbed her arm. He let go just as quickly when she gave an involuntary cry of pain. "Damn," she muttered, rubbing the offending place gingerly. "He grabbed my arm really hard. Well, good thing I'm wearing long sleeves, right?"

Vegeta rolled his eyes again at the optimism, picked her up bridal style (studiously ignoring the swelling feeling somewhere in the vicinity of his chest) and floated up to her balcony. Depositing her on the ground, he turned to look at the view of the city while she did whatever it was that she was going to do. The buildings were lit up with what The Woman called "Christmas lights." He supposed that they looked nice, all reds and greens and golds against a backdrop of white snowfall. A large upended cone was below the balcony, all green and red, with a golden star perched precariously on top.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" The Woman asked, coming to stand beside him. Vegeta grunted, something that she ignored, as per the usual. "Christmas is always one of my favorite times of the year because of all the lights." A soft smile spread across her face, and, sneaking a glance from the corner of his eye, the Saiyan Prince thought that he had never seen her look more beautiful, bruises and all. If anything, the bruises made her even more attractive, showing that she was a fighter, even if only in mind.

However, he said none of this. Instead he asked, "What are you wearing?"

The Woman cast him a startled look that quickly morphed into a shy, self-deprecating grin. "I'm supposed to be Santa," she admitted. Then she frowned. "Or his wife, I suppose, although considering that she's old she's probably never worn something like this." She put on the scrap of fabric that she had picked up downstairs, revealing it to be a hat.

"And what is this Santa?" he queried further.

"He's a magical man who gives good children presents on Christmas Eve," she replied. "He isn't really real, I guess, but it's still great fun." Suddenly, a mischievous glint appeared in her eye as she looked at him. Before Vegeta could decipher what she about to do, she had taken the hat off her own head and jammed it onto his, or at least tried to. Unfortunately, his hair prevented it from fully encasing his head. It got caught on the first spike and stayed there, sticking straight up.

The Woman keeled over in surprised laughter at the sight. For his part, Vegeta stood there, scowling at her until she could control herself. "I'm sorry, Vegeta; I just couldn't resist!" she said, still giggling. "Oh, I needed that. After earlier, I needed a laugh." She reached up and plucked the hat off, using his shoulder for balance. His hand automatically reached up to rip the offending appendage off, but he forced it to merely close gently around The Woman's smaller hand.

Her startled blue eyes looked up into his before she looked away, a slight blush on her cheeks. His hand came up to cup her face, thumb lightly running over the bruise. Seeing her so vulnerable earlier had awakened a protective instinct that he'd never felt before. "You are not to see Yamcha alone again," he said decisively. Then, to silence the argument that he knew was coming thanks to The Woman's darkening eyes, he forced his mouth onto hers. She stiffened at first, then relaxed into his embrace, letting him hold her tightly.

When the kiss ended, she looked up at him and breathlessly said, "Okay. But please don't tell any of the others about... well, what happened. What's been happening."

"On one condition," he replied. Her brow furrowed. "Never put that damn hat on me again!"

A smile crossed her face. She whispered, "I think that I can agree to that," and pulled him into another kiss. After a moment she pulled away. "I have to go back downstairs," she said, sounding annoyed. "Just do me a favor and don't hurt him too badly, all right?"

The Saiyan watched her sashay out the door, mouth slightly ajar. She had just given him permission to beat up the weakling! His jaw snapped shut with an audible click, and then a slow smirk spread across his face as he cracked his knuckles.

This was going to be fun.

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