Serendipity: Shifting the Paradigm

BY : Ghost-of-a-Chance
Category: Dragon Ball Z > AU - Alternate Universe
Dragon prints: 1213
Disclaimer: I don't own DBZ, any of its characters/devices, or any books/movies/song mentioned; no money is being made from this story. I DO own my OCs...and a very fat cat named "Heifer."

This chapter has been edited as of Nov. 2o2o.
I'm striving for a balance with each of these characters—a balance between their simpler and less dramatastic manga selves, and their more complex anime counterparts. Hopefully, I'm accomplishing that instead of crossing into the OOC danger zone.
Trigger warnings: depression, (vague) talk of attempted suicide-by-proxy, harsh language, and Vegeta realizing he's really not that scary; there is some non-explicit discussion of two deaths, one by vehicular accident and one resulting from a natural disaster.

 

Suggested listening: AFI "This Time Imperfect," Emerson, Lake, & Palmer "C'est la Vie"

 


Sierra

Bulma turned in her seat to switch on her soldering iron and yelped. No one could blame her, though; there was a very grim Piccolo standing in the open door of her lab about to knock, and he looked even more emotionally constipated than usual. Something grave must have happened. He never sought her out; if anything, he did whatever he could to avoid her company. Bulma swiveled her chair around to face him fully.

"Come on in, Piccolo.” She shoved her goggles up onto her scalp and peeled off her gloves. “What's going on?" He glanced in the direction of the door, then back at her. She nodded warily, all the while, feeling like all the oxygen fled the room. Piccolo closed the door and leaned against the wall with his arms crossed, avoiding her inquisitive eyes even as he broke the uncomfortable silence.

"I met Gohan earlier — he felt like playing hero." Bulma smirked; that sounded like Gohan, alright. "The woman has no visible injury but there’s clearly something unseen. She’s in pain, and she carries a cane." His brow furrowed, and it took everything Bulma had to not demand what woman? "She can barely walk but she has not explained what ails her." Bulma arched one elegant blue eyebrow and waited expectantly. He didn't continue.

"So…? What? We'll get her to a hospital or something and she'll get help. Big deal." Piccolo growled under his breath, his black eyes darting from one corner of the room to another and his sharp teeth showing. The Bulma of a few years ago would probably have wet herself by this point and most certainly would have started screaming and throwing things. Thanks to Vegeta, this Bulma was no longer impressed by snarly ill-tempered aliens. She crossed her legs, narrowed her eyes, and waited for the Namek to crack. It didn't take long.

"That's not all…it's…there's something wrong with that woman," he finally burst out. "Her words make no sense, her eyes make no sense—it's like she's not even alive! Her thoughts are on such a tight chain I couldn't discern them!" He followed up the rant with another growl, though this one sounded more like a pouting cat than a threatening dog.

On the one hand, Bulma was shocked. While she didn't exactly make it a point to sit around and chat with Piccolo, and most of their interactions involved insults, yelling, and him bleeding, she’d never heard him say so many words in one shot. She'd never seen him so confused or disturbed, either...at least, not since the fateful tournament where he took on Goku, lost, and found himself revived by his sworn enemy. On the other hand, Bulma felt terrible for the mystery woman, and she had a hunch about what was going on. "Why don’t I talk to her, hm?" Bulma offered with a careful, tight smile. "She might be more receptive to talking about it with—no offense meant—another human." To her surprise, Piccolo didn't look offended at all. He looked…bewildered?

"She's not afraid of me," he answered slowly, as though questioning her intelligence and his own.

Bulma was taken aback. Everyone in her circle knew how strangers reacted to Piccolo even when he tried to help them. There was running, screaming, pleas for mercy, and usually, something managed to catch fire in the chaos. Sometimes people wet themselves or took up arms. If she was honest with herself, Bulma couldn't really blame them. Piccolo was the spitting image of his father, Demon King Piccolo, and he hadn’t always been, to quote Gohan, one of the good guys.

That aside, Bulma knew what those people didn’t know. Time and time again, Piccolo emerged from his solitude to fend off a threat only to retreat before anyone could fuss over him. Time and time again, he bled, suffered, and sometimes even died to protect a planet that wasn't his own and people who feared and hated him. Piccolo didn't deserve their fear anymore, but people not fearing him on sight… “She’s...not...?” Bulma trailed off. Perhaps she misheard...

"The only emotion she’s shown is irritation," Piccolo clarified. Bulma considered his words silently. What could cause a lack of emotion in a person—or was it perhaps a dampening of emotions? Unable to think of even one viable possibility—because Vegeta must surely be the exception rather than the rule—she resolved to meet the woman if only to gather more information on her. Abandoning her project temporarily, Bulma led Piccolo out of the lab, musing over the tension she detected behind his words.


Bulma and Piccolo found the stranger in the garden, sitting pensively on a bench glider beside a large fishpond. Rocking slowly, she watched the speckled carp and frilled goldfish glide around just below the surface. Her dark, weary eyes were focused on the largest of the many waterfalls and ringed with months’ worth of lost sleep.

Initially, Bulma wondered if Piccolo was overreacting—the stranger looked plenty emotional to her—then her sneaker displaced a pile of landscaping pebbles. Like a curtain falling over a window, the stranger’s face went cautiously, unnaturally blank. She never looked away from the waterfall to make eye contact with the heiress or the man who brought her here. This close, Bulma could see the cane laid across the woman's lap. To her eyes, it was clear the stranger was probably more burdened by it than helped; it was too short for her and made for someone of a slighter build, and the chunky 'foot' on the bottom wasn't tall enough to compensate.

Bulma gave no notice of being ignored; she approached and held her hand out in a greeting—a greeting that went unacknowledged. "Hey, there." The stranger said nothing but ducked her head just the slightest bit lower as if nervous. "I’m Bulma Briefs,” the heiress tried again. "Nice to meet you." The barest hint of surprise touched the silent woman's face for a moment before melting into wariness then vanishing into nothing again. Bulma had seen fish that showed more expression, but if she was anything, she was stubborn. She perched on the edge of the lounge set at an angle from the glider, watching the stranger’s dull eyes and waiting for her to crack. "What's your name?"

Finally, a sound: the stranger heaved a long-suffering sigh and slumped into the back of the glider. Piccolo retreated to a flower bed full of roses, distant enough to go unnoticed but close enough to eavesdrop. His eyes closed, and his arms and legs crossed and closed him off, and he let his chi surround and lift his body above the grass; the two humans would assume he was meditating, but his senses were locked on their conversation.

"What's it matter?" The stranger's voice seemed even more tired and strained than it had in the forest as if it took everything she had just to speak. "You want to help me...ya can’t." Though taken aback by the woman's accent, Bulma kept her expression neutral and her tone calm. It seemed presumptuous of the woman to say, 'you want to help me,' but it was true; Bulma did want to help her. The woman uttered a quiet, breathy snort and rolled her eyes, though in response to what wasn’t obvious.

"You never know," Bulma answered casually. "Sometimes we can get the most help from those we least expect it of; I can personally attest to that, as can many of my friends and family." Anyone who knew Goku could confirm that, in fact. The stranger remained silent; she must not know Goku. "Besides, even if I can't help you, what could it hurt to try? It's worth a shot, right?" The strange woman mulled over Bulma’s words, her dark eyes staring through the fish pond, perhaps into another life. The heiress could never know what was on the stranger's mind, but if she did, she might have understood. Memories of struggling ants and golden fans echoed through her mind's eye, warring with the bleak emptiness that had smothered everything in its path. Finally, the stranger sighed...and relaxed.

"Death's a funny thing," she stated with as much emphasis as someone commenting on an unusual cloud or the possibility of rain. "When you lose someone, your world is torn apart...sometimes it never really recovers. Those who die, though…" She paused, sighed through her nose, and followed the path of an unusually energetic fish in the pond. "The dead, their suffering's over. The illness, the pain, the stress and hurt from daily life, it's all over for them. Death cures everything except what it causes, and even the ones left behind will be cured when they, too, meet their end."

“Is...death...what you want?" Bulma prodded once the woman had fallen—and remained—silent. "Are you sure of that? I live with a crabby Saiyan who might be willing to oblige, but he’ll get grouchy if you back down after asking him to kill you." Piccolo's shoulders tensed up, and he began to fantasize about killing the blue-haired maniac in as many creative ways as possible. It wasn’t the first time Bulma’s mouth drove him to it, either. What was she thinking?! She had absolutely no tact and no idea what she was doing! Why had he brought the woman to her, instead of just leaving her in the forest?! Oh, right. Gohan. Gohan was going to get his ass handed to him when they sparred tomorrow. Between all his fuming and seething, he never heard the stranger huff in response to Bulma’s ridiculous offer.

"If I die or if I don't, it don' matter," she answered dryly. She...didn’t sound quite as robotic as before, but he still couldn’t read her. Her scent, however, had finally changed—Piccolo could detect pheromones now, though they were still weak; the breeze smelled of sorrow and pain, as well as the vanilla, aloe, and stale coffee from before. The blend had filled his lungs all the way from the clearing to Capsule Corp, and he was pretty sure it would take weeks to get it out of his clothes.

"Well...it's your decision." Bulma’s sounded skeptical. "Whatever's got you down won't always be there, though. You may regret it." The woman steeled her expression, positively stinking of anger.

"Oh, it'll be there alright." She scowled at the gravel-strewn ground at her feet. "It'll jus' keep gettin' worse 'til the day it kills me." Her naked lips thinned and tightened, and her fingers clutched the wooden length of the cane so hard her tendons bulged underneath the surface of her skin. "I don't wanna live just so I can die young. I don't wanna waste away in a hospice after forty—I don’t wanna be reduced to sponge-baths an’ morphine, an’ pitying nurses. If that’s my future, I’d rather have none." Bulma winced. It sounded like the stranger was getting this list of fears from somewhere…or perhaps someone….

Suddenly, all the bitterness left the woman's face and voice, and her scent changed again. Fear and…hope? Yes, fear and hope. While he would never admit it, that was a combination Piccolo felt every time he fought to his last breath in defense of the world his predecessor wanted to destroy. He lowered his head in mimicry of deep thought but parted his eyelids just enough to see the traces of emotion flitting across the stranger’s face and through her eyes. "I guess,” she murmured, almost whispered like she was confessing some great sin, “I...I wanna live…justnot past the point of havin' no reason to live."

Bulma forcibly tore her eyes away from the dusky-skinned woman before her and fixed them on the fountain. The words, while uncomfortable, made sense to her. Who would want to live once living became more like dying? While Bulma mulled that over, the woman threw a quick glance at her then focused her attention again on the waterfall's relaxing cascade. She inhaled, let the breath back out, then her lips parted around a single, softly-spoken word: "Sierra."

Bulma blinked. "Huh?" The stranger brought one arm up to rest along the back of the glider, but if anything, she only looked more nervous.

"You asked my name,” she reminded with an uncomfortable quirk of the lips. “It's Sierra Daiyu Stone." Piccolo’s eyes fell closed as he processed the new information. Sierra. It was a name he was not familiar with; he wondered about its origin, then wondered why he should even care. His entire family, after all, were named for musical instruments, and most of his allies were named after food. Who knew or cared about what ordinary people name their offspring?

"That's a pretty name." Bulma smiled and gave a polite nod. "Very elegant. It suits you. I guess you're not from around here?"

"Well…” Sierra made that uncomfortable cringe again. “Not really. I don’t want to bore…" She fell silent, and her cringe deepened as if she resigned herself to an uncomfortable situation.

"Please, bore me." Sierra showed no surprise at Bulma’s teasing encouragement; instead, she lifted her eyes to the ceiling as if praying for strength, then complied.

"My mother, Evita, was from the States,” she explained although the word meant nothing to Piccolo. “—Muh-ZUR-uh, in fact, some dinky little town by the western border. It's right smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley but nearly a third of the country's in the Alley. You knew it'd be a clear day if they blew the sirens on Monday without eminent threat. The testin' got real old, real fast…" She trailed off then shook her head to clear it…of what, Piccolo had no idea, but her eyes were becoming pained again. "Her family came East from California in the twenties. M' father, Takahiro, was from this part of the world, born to a Chinese expat." Bulma hesitated but finally asked,

"Are…they…?" Sierra was silent a moment.

"Gone. They're both gone. Been so for a while now."

"You don't have to tell me...if you don't want to…."

"You wanted to hear it," Sierra reminded, and finally glanced over at Bulma though her eyes lifted no higher than the heiress’ shoe. "They moved us here as kids, then divorced while my sisters and I were still in school. Mother went home, Father stayed here, and we were shuttled between every other year. All three of us settled here as adults." Sierra's voice cracked as if the effort of speaking was physically wounding her. "Mama…” The name was accented in a way Bulma wasn't familiar with. "...she finally agreed to visit…she waited too long." Sierra’s eyes glistened with tears that she promptly blinked away. "A tornado,” she said simply, “she didn't' make it."

Bulma felt like pulling the poor woman into a hug. It had to be a nightmare to lose a parent like that, and it obviously still hurt for Sierra to think about it. Even so, she refrained; everything about Sierra’s posture demanded space and ordered distance. “A couple'a drunken punks ran a stoplight an’ broadsided Tou-san in January." Sierra's face hardened, and her unshed tears dried up. "The boys who killed him were uninjured and received a suspended sentence." Sierra took a moment to collect herself.

She-ah-rra.” Bulma tested the name aloud and received a slightly disgruntled correction. “S--See-air-ah, then? That’s...is that Latin? It sounds like Latin.”

"It’s Spanish,” Sierra countered, “for mountain range. My middle name, Daiyu, is Chinese for black jade.” She gave a small, ironic smile, though it looked more like a wince, and she turned amused eyes to Bulma. “My parents’ honeymooned in Hawaii; Mama never got over the volcanoes.” Bulma thought that was hilarious.

Unnoticed by the other two, Piccolo mused over her words. The name fit her. Black Jade was a rare precious mineral—rare, like someone who didn't fear him at first sight. She was at ease in the forest, too, unafraid of her surroundings. Like the mountains hewn from millennia of erosion into spectacular peaks, she was shaped into who she was by the ups and downs of her life. Strong and solitary, like the mountains; rare and remarkable, like Black Jade. Of course, he'd not seen her actually angry yet; for all he knew, she might well be explosive as a volcano.

'Hopefully, I'll never find out either way.’ With a final mental grumble, he turned his senses back to the blue-haired harpy and the empty-eyed woman he'd brought to her, only to find the bench vacant and hear Sierra's shuffle-and-clack footsteps fading out of his hearing range. No matter...now the woman was Bulma’s problem.

...so why was Piccolo still lurking in her garden?


"No." Sierra's voice, though still flat, startled Bulma. A while ago, she suggested they examine her mother’s newest flower bed while they continue their chat. The nursery clerk had helped her mother pick out only 'plants from southern America,' and Bulma was curious about the validity of the statement. Her mother had strange hobbies—hence, the flower beds labeled by country and region—and she was more than a little gullible.

"No?" Bulma asked, unaware of Piccolo's silent approach. "But—you have nowhere to go!” Sierra’s admission that she ordered her house put up for sale before walking off to meet her death was both ridiculous and horrifying. If anything, it was proof that she didn’t do anything by halves, but... “Sierra, where will you live?"

"I'm not moving in, Ms. Briefs. That's final."

"But—!"

"Goddammit, Lady!" Sierra snapped—verbally and emotionally—and the clipped accent Bulma had heard lurking under her words came out in full force. "I don' need yer pity, I don' need yer handouts, an' I sure as hell don' need yer help!" ...dough...n? Doen? She...doesn't...? Bulma’s confusion was cut short by another voice:

"I never took you for a coward, woman."

Though Sierra didn't startle at Piccolo’s unexpected condemnation, she turned too quickly to face him, and that brought on a spasm in her lower back. He scowled as she stumbled to the nearest bench and, though she fought to retain her dignity, collapsed on it. "I'm not...a coward!" she ground out and dug her knuckles into the damaged nerve cluster responsible for the blinding pain. Still, the spasm only grew stronger, worsening until she could barely speak between the spikes of pain. "You have no idea—what I've lived through! Y-You have no—no idea...what I've—seen! You—"

“You have a choice!” The pain Sierra felt had finally surfaced in her expression, but Piccolo didn’t care at the moment. He was appalled. This—woman, this weak human woman was everything Piccolo hated about humanity. "Instead of trying,” he yelled at her,you're giving up! You’re rolling on your back like a sniveling, cowering mutt!”

The garden filled with a tense, electric silence that even their heaving lungs couldn’t break. Sierra's eyes peeled open in uncontained rage; her right hand gripped the middle of her cane like it was the only thing standing between her and breaking Piccolo’s neck. "Did you...just call me...a bitch?" she asked through gritted teeth.

"If..the shoe...fits.”

The brunette lunged off of the bench and cracked Piccolo in the jaw with the top of her cane. "Oh, crap." Bulma backed toward the door to the garden. The blow wasn’t hard enough to do any damage to Piccolo, but even an idiot could tell Sierra just took her life in her hands. Bulma darted back inside, hollering for Vegeta.

"No me jodas!" Sierra spat; though Piccolo didn't know the name of the language, Kami's memories proved useful once more. Don't fuck with me? Feh...he was just getting started. "I am no one’s bitch, you—"

"If you're no one's bitch," he taunted and drew up to his full intimidating height over the woman on her knees in the gravel, "then prove it! Don't just lie down and cry for Mama!"

Sierra flinched, and her eyes widened and shimmered...then, right before his eyes, she shut down completely. Her eyes dulled, and her face slackened, and in an almost monotone, she said, "my mother is dead. I'm not foolish enough to ask for help that won't arrive." Piccolo swore internally; she'd finally shown emotion—fury, hurt, and even a little fear—then she shut back down as though nothing ever happened. He watched as Sierra physically crawled back over to the bench, dragged herself back up and collapsed on it, and commenced staring at the flowerbed as if he wasn't standing right beside her.

The fool woman wasn’t broken...she was strangling herself, one emotion at a time.


Bulma skidded into the garden with Vegeta in tow to find Sierra silently studying a tall purple Echinacea and Piccolo glowering at her from a distance. He immediately stalked over when Vegeta appeared. "What's the matter, Namek?" Vegeta taunted. "She's not into slugs?"

"Watch out for the cane," Piccolo warned. Vegeta's incredulous expression was quite comical.

"And here I thought the woman inhaled too many fumes again." Bulma cleared her throat and glared, but Vegeta gave no notice. "She’s human? Is she stupid or does she have a death wish?"

"She doesn't strike me as stupid, and she turned down Bulma's offer of suicide by Saiyan." Piccolo peered over at the silent brunette as if assessing a threat from afar. Perhaps, he admitted only to himself, she was a threat... "She’s suppressing everything she feels...I know not why."

"What are you asking, Piccolo?" The prince’s voice was low with warning.

"Just do what you do best." Vegeta replied to Piccolo’s smirk with a sadistic grin and stalked away.

"Goku will be hearing about this," Bulma warned lowly.

"Woman!" Vegeta bellowed upon reaching Sierra's side. "Why is there a human female in the garden?! I warned you not to let anyone near that dirt—the last intruder is still decomposing!" Bulma bit her tongue; Sierra didn't even flinch. Noting her lack of response, Vegeta swept into her line of view, grabbed her by the chin, and physically forced her to meet his eyes. "Explain yourself while you still have a tongue," he ordered. She met his glare entirely unaffected by his bluster.

"Your wife needs to report that nursery to the authorities."

Vegeta just stared at her a moment. He'd threatened her with bodily harm and torture and told her he'd recently disposed of a body in the garden, yet she was cool as a cucumber! "What?"

She rolled her eyes and pointed the tip of her cane at a healthy green shrub overflowing with firework-shaped clusters of tiny yellow, orange, and pink flowers. "Lantana Camara," she said as if she was reciting a name tag. "It’s native to South an' Central America, an’ registered as invasive in over fifty countries. The Japanese government outlawed its sale last month. The nursery was probably trying to cut its losses by sellin' the stock anyway, an' needs to be reported." Vegeta gaped, struggling to wrap his head around her reaction...or, rather, lack thereof. "Nice try, by the way. Anyone else might'a been fooled."

"Fooled?!" She shifted in her seat, stretching a crick out of her neck.

"Ya just wanted to scare me. Name's Sierra. Yours?" She wasn't at all surprised when he simply turned away and retreated back inside, seemingly in a daze. ‘Dammit,’ she thought as he argued with Bulma before disappearing around a corner. ‘Maybe I should'a at least pretended to fall for it…His ego's probably castrated, now. Gotta work on that subtlety.’ Not that subtlety was helpful for her when someone meant her harm—her niece’s experiences were proof enough of that.


"Hey, Aunt Dai?" The petite redhead at the door greeted her with a wide lopsided grin. "This guy asked me to come over and study with him. Matsubara seems nice and he hasn't tried anything yet but I'm still not sure. I invited him over to study. Mind helpin' a sister out?" Sierra chuckled, ruffling her niece's carrot red hair.

"I'm not your sister, Hon, but I'd be glad to help. When’s he due?" Rowan winced.

"...he's...uh...he’ll be here soon. Mom won't be home for a while but he didn't want to wait…hence my concern." A quiet knock at the front door cut her off; the fine hairs at the nape of Sierra’s neck shot to attention and her blood boiled. She hadn't even seen the boy yet and could barely read him, and she already knew he was trouble.

Forcing a disarming smile into place, she shuffled to the door; the bookish boy on the other side was shorter than her, and he smelled like he'd been marinating in pine cones and dirty socks for a week. He tapped his foot impatiently and kept peering around as though searching for witnesses. Sierra’s nearest neighbor was five miles away...she solemnly swore this punk was up to no good. She faked a cough and pasted on a practiced 'I already love you, please give me gran'babies' grin. The kid spun about with a wide grin in place…a grin that faltered when he realized she wasn't Rowan and weakened the further he had to look up to meet her eyes. By the time his eyes reached her face, they were almost bulging out of their sockets. She never could get used to being taller than most people in this country, and it seemed the feeling was mutual.

"Hi there!" Sierra gushed and wrapped him in a motherly hug, only to grimace at the amount of pine fragrance coming from his black hair. Did he sleep on air fresheners or something? "You must be Matsubara-kun! Rowan's in the den, follow me." As she turned to lead the way, she didn't see any obvious warning signs from him. Still, despite the silence, she couldn't shake the feeling he was trouble…and that feeling was never wrong.

He spread his books out on the table and eyed the old couch, and she tugged Rowan to the kitchen under the pretense of fetching snacks. Instead, they ducked outside to watch him through the window. Sure enough, he wandered the room and examined the various electronics and knickknacks; Sierra swore she could see Yen signs flashing in his eyes.

"Not a chance." Sierra never took her eye off the boy helping himself to her desk. There was still silence, but the distance put what she sensed into perspective. Sometimes she really hated abstract thinkers; they were so hard for her to read unless she was just shy of crawling up their asses. "Any minute now he's gonna start rifling through drawers,” she warned Rowan, “and he’s got wanderin’ hands."

Rowan’s bright green eyes betrayed no sadness or hurt—apparently, she suspected more than she would admit. "Dammit...this is bullshit.” The colorful language was proof Rowan was Rio’s daughter. “Why does everyone just wanna take advantage of me? I'm not hot, I'm not popular, and I'm certainly not rich."

"You're beautiful, Redbird,” Sierra reminded and wrapped a supportive arm around Rowan’s shoulders. “You’re intelligent and you have a good heart. Some people just can't stand seeing those in the world, if only because they themselves lack it. Don't let them keep you down."

A moment later, they returned to the den, and Sierra pointedly cleared her throat. Matsubara froze, one hand still in the desk drawer, and dropped whatever was in it. "I thought so." Sierra scowled, blocking the doorway with every inch of her height. "If ya hand it all over before the cops get here, I won't press charges." At first, he seemed to consider refusing. He shot a quick glance at Rowan, who held her cellphone aloft; it wasn't worth it. After piling the stolen items on the desk, he followed Rowan to the front door.

On the way, Sierra grabbed a large, leather-bound Bible from an end table and pushed it into his hands. "Somethin' tells me you need this more'n I do, Son. Stay away from my niece."


Despite the iron control Sierra kept over her emotions, her gut twisted in disgust at the memory. The fiasco with Matsubara Hiro was neither the first time she had to chase some trouble-maker away from her niece nor the last. The thieves annoyed her most because they fell for the bait so readily. Prescription bottles full of breath mints, costume jewelry, a locked cashbox weighed down with a paperback, an empty cigarette pack loaded with paper drinking straws—their greed blinded them to what should be obvious. She offered the ‘bible’ to every thief she caught, but so far, none fell for the ruse; it was actually hollowed-out and rigged with identifying ink, so this was lucky for the thieves. It could be handy having an ex-mercenary as a close friend, really.

'Rowan...' Sierra sobered. 'Rio...Cor...How can I ever leave you behind? It's better this way, but how can I actually do it?' Her heart ached at the very thought of never seeing her family again, but her health continued to deteriorate, and the mere thought of becoming a burden to them appalled her. She'd watched her father, his father, and several of their relatives brought to helplessness and early death by the same illness she now fought. Worse yet, she had a back injury complicating matters. That psychotic good-for-nothing horse nearly broke her back when he threw her, the surgery she endured during college only left more scar tissue, and all of it was making everything so much worse.

...Dear God. Now it hit her. She blanched as she stared through a patch of golden coreopsis. Like water dumped in a waterlogged planter, it had all finally sunk in, and like an over-watered flower, she felt ready to drown. The plan was simple...and she screwed it up, big time. "Auntie Constanza, if you could only see me now..."

It had been several years since Conz died, but Sierra knew without a doubt what her aunt would think of her. She built a happy, successful life...then she threw it all away over a bad diagnosis without even considering treatment. Her home was up for sale and her belongings were in storage. She'd signed over her share of the nursery to Cordelia and quit by mail without explanation. Her family had no idea where she was, or even if she was alive, and she’d turned off her phone. She could almost hear her favorite aunt reading her the riot act from under her truck. "The Hell're you thinkin', Dai?!" the older woman demand as she struggled with whatever part fell off the vehicle this time. "Quit fuckin' whinin' an' grow a pair a'ready! Yer Mama taught ya better an' ya ain't too big for a whoopin' yet! —hand me the crescent, will ya?"

There were no two ways about it: she really screwed the pooch this time. She absolutely had to fix this, somehow. Resolved, Sierra heaved herself off the bench and shuffled toward Bulma, who was apparently trying to talk Vegeta out of something...something about...gravity? Weird, but this was the Briefs family after all; rumors of their eccentricity went further south than Sierra ever traveled.

"Ms. Briefs?" Bulma turned, and she tried to force a smile. "I meant what I said earlier: I don't need pity or handouts. Apparently, though..." The smile became a cringe, as her smiles often did. "...I do need help. If the offer still stands, would you consider a bargain?"


The pointed clearing of a throat pulled Piccolo from his meditation, and he opened his eyes to confront the intruder. Dusky skin, dark hair, darker eyes, a walking cane too short for her, and an overall air of apathy—it could only be that woman. After the way she lashed out at him earlier, he never expected her to approach him but, approach him, she did. "What?" he grunted.

Sierra paused then shook her head as if to clear out cobwebs. "You were right," she said simply. "Thank you." With that, she limped after Bulma and left him pondering her sudden change of heart. Either way, he reminded himself as he settled again amid the roses, she was clearly more trouble than she was worth.


( * )

 

Next time: Trunks is a little shit, Sierra nearly croaks, Dende has questions, and Piccolo is SO done with all this.


Notes, in order of occurrence:

  • No me jodas: Spanish, roughly, "Don't fuck with me."
  • Lantana:  Lantana's gorgeous but deadly and has proven itself invasive in several countries. I don’t know if Japan has joined the list of locations that have banned it, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
  • That damned horse: Because I don’t intend to explain anytime soon: Sierra's Mother's horse, Felipe, is an asshole. The incident referenced occurred because Evita (Sierra’s mother) pushed her to learn to ride, only for Felipe to throw her when Rio approached the corral eating an apple.
  • "Screwed the pooch": made a mistake of ridiculous proportions.
  • Crescent: Crescent wrench.

 



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