Concerto Twenty-Six: Rebirth

oooOOOooo

There was so much blood. Too much blood, in fact, that it almost made Vegeta nauseous.

It was as if time slowed to complete still then, the air dissipating from his lungs, and he was sure that this was it. That any remaining fuel to his life had dissolved until he was left a shallowed corpse of regret and heartache. What…what had he done in his life that was so bad that it had to resort to this? Vegeta thought back in the briefly allotted time his brain had given him, thought back to a time when he was just a boy with a dream. Back when he first picked up a violin, first touched the keys of a piano, first learned the difference between G sharp and B flat and how he could use this knowledge to write a song. When he first realized his parents, while in love with each other, carried a toxic relationship that trickled down to their children. The day when he lay on his back, a boy of fourteen, staring at the ceiling while he could hear them screaming at each other downstairs, and thought how he deserved better than this. How one day he would have a family and he would never scream at them or make them feel abandoned. How he would have a pretty wife in a nice house and children who asked him to teach them to play the piano.

And with a gut wrenching stomach drop, Vegeta watched that childlike dream scatter in the wind as the blood raced down Bulma's face.

Her expression was frozen, her lips forming into a perfect circle as her widened eyes housed tiny pupils that centered on his face. The after sound of the gunshot hung in the air like fog around them, the air eerily silent as the consequences of the shot spiraled out in front of Vegeta's eyes. Her beautiful hair clung to the side of her cheeks desperately, the blue strands getting tainted with the cruel color of crimson.

Bulma…she…no…no! He had tried to save her….didn't he? He should have tried harder! The woman…this woman that he had vowed to protect…he failed. He fucking failed and now she and their child paid the ultimate blood price. He couldn't take his eyes away from her, even though his brain demanded that he look away, that he didn't need to see her final moments like this. That he needed to remember her with a sunny smile and oceans for eyes beaming with love and life. Remember her with her milky skin and her sky kissed hair and her pouty lips that he would stare at for hours. Especially when she was sleeping. He loved most to watch her then, so unguarded and peaceful, tucked neatly into his arms while she slobbered on his shoulder with her light snoring. That's how he should remember her. Not like this.

A small part of him braced himself for Frieza's stupid face, for his stupid laugh. He didn't care what happened to him then; the moment that Frieza chortled out his 'oh-hoh-hoh-hoh!', Vegeta would snap. He didn't care if Vegeta shot him right between the brows then, he would lunge at him just like he did with Zarbon and Dodoria and he would enact revenge on Frieza himself. He didn't care if this turned into some dramatic Romeo and Juliet scene, there was no way that he had to watch Bulma… die… like that and hear her killer taunt him with some self-satisfying laugh. He held his breath and waited, his fingers balling into a fist already.

It never came.

Instead, as the air slowly began to inflate his lungs again, Vegeta heard a sound so beautiful it brought his eyes to tears.

Bulma, with blood rushing just past her mouth, took off her tape and gasped.

It was a sharp inhale of breath that screamed relief and confusion, and for a second Vegeta's pessimism took over as he found himself preparing for the punchline to this situation. There…there was no way….he saw….he heard the shot….he saw the blood…Bulma…was…she was…

The arm the held her tightly under her chest began to lose its strength, lazily falling past her stomach until it rested at her hip, eventually flapping around like dead weight. And to Vegeta's surprise, to his unexpected surprise that was interlocked with hope, Bulma let out a choking sob as the body of Frieza slumped to the ground behind her, his gun -his unused gun- clanking to the wooden floor board. Vegeta watched carefully, his eyes still wide in case life was indeed playing a cruel joke on him, as Bulma shifted her gaze to her feet, looking at Frieza's fallen gun and his frozen hand as if they would poison her if she touched them. And then, with careful restraint, she looked back to Vegeta, questions sleeping in her eyes that were about to be birthed awake.

This…this couldn't be….

"V-V-Vegeta…." She whispered, saying his name cautiously as if it were taboo. He watched her swallow, watched as the seconds ticked past them until her face crumpled like balled up paper. Her chin scrunched together as her lips trembled, her large eyes closing as tears rushed past her eyelashes and left traces on her cheeks. "Vegeta," she said with a little more confidence, her voice shaking and threatening to break. There was so much need for him in those three syllables, so many demands for him when she spoke his name, that it forced him to his feet.

He walked over to her carefully, waiting for the moment that Frieza would get back up and point that gun towards them. Bulma, being the smart woman that she was, grunted in the middle of her tears and kicked it away from them, the pistol stopping just short of the edge of the dock. She opened her eyes and looked to him, confusion, stress and relief colliding together until her facial expression was left behind. Vegeta reached out to touch her face the second he was close enough to do so, his trembling fingers expecting to collide with a ghost.

But she was real. She was real and warm and solid under the pad of his thumb, his eyes searching her face for any sign that this was all a lie.

"Bulma," he said softly, praying to whoever was listening that this moment wouldn't turn in on itself, "Are you…b-but…how…?"

Her own lips trembled, her hand coming up to cover his. He watched her slowly break under his heavy stare until she sobbed openly, loudly. She threw herself against him then, her head falling just underneath his chin, her body vibrating with all of the intensity that the past moments had forced them to endure. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close to him and pressing his lips to the top of her head. He couldn't deny it to himself anymore: Bulma was alive. She was alive! She may have been bawling uncontrollably in his embrace at the moment, but she was here and breathing and alive. And their baby…

Vegeta pushed her gently away from her then, pressing his hand to the front of her stomach. He stared at her desperately, the scene of Zarbon kicking her in the belly flashing through his mind like a bad movie. Bulma pressed her hand on top of his, her own eyes showing the sign of defeat. But then, like the sun after a rainstorm, she smiled.

"I think…I think the baby is okay, Vegeta," her tears didn't stop coming, and to her credit, neither did Vegeta's. "I just…I know I'll have to get checked out, but I really think the baby is okay!"

He wanted to believe it, he really did, but Zarbon's strength….

He pulled her back into him, wrapping his arms around her with the unspoken promise that this would never happen again. Running his fingers through her hair, still damp with blood, he looked down to Frieza with concealed rage, taking in the man's lifeless form as blood pooled around him like a halo. Good you fucking bastard, he thought, before realizing that someone shot Frieza.

"Bulma," he hugged her tighter then, looking around them to see if any other threats were in the area, "Someone else is here. Frieza didn't die all on his own." He felt her stiffen underneath him and he could taste the fear that resonated from her skin. Trying to soothe her, he ran his hand up and down her back, placing another kiss to the top of her head. "Don't worry Bulma. I won't let anyone else hurt you."

She nodded, turning her head to look around the area with him. The heavy blanket of night shadowed them, leaving no area of the dock untouched. The only evidence that someone else was here was the body of Frieza, lifeless and cold, his eyes opened wide in shock. "I'm scared, Vegeta," Bulma whispered, wrapping her arms about his middle tightly, her fingers knotting at his suit jacket. "I just want it all to be over. I just want to go home with you!"

"We are going home," he gritted through his teeth, eyeing the lone gun that Bulma kicked away only minutes prior, "You and me and our child are going home tonight. We're going to order a fucking pizza and have a bath and get some sleep and we are doing that tonight, dammnit!" He shouted the last part of his words into the open. A threat. A threat to whomever still lurked in the shadows that this wasn't going to be their graveside. That they would survive. That their nightmare was over and it was time to wake up.

From behind them, Zarbon and Dodoria began to moan out, gaining conscious back after Vegeta's beating. He turned around warily, pushing Bulma to his back and guarding her with his left arm. He was so sure that his eyes burned with the flame of the determined, and he would set those two assholes on fire before he ever let them near Bulma or their child again.

Zarbon sat up first, grabbing his temples and grimacing in pain. It took awhile for him to register his surroundings, his angry eyes first making contact with Vegeta and unveiling schemes of his vengeance. But then he shifted focus behind them, and Vegeta relished in every moment that realization dawned on the bastard's face.

"Fr…Frieza…." Zarbon whispered, completely in shock that the man who had ran his life since he was a child was now dead. Accusing eyes darted to Vegeta and Bulma, and Zarbon scowled and stood, his pain no longer a factor. "You son of a bitch," he groaned, lifting his blazer to display a blade tucked into his pants. Vegeta was shocked that Zarbon didn't try to pull it out during their one sided fight, but then again, adrenaline rushes were nothing short of fascinating.

Zarbon stood, his knife brandished tightly in his hand, and kicked Dodoria's side. "Get up fat ass," he snarled, his golden eyes swaying unsettlingly in the dark. Dodoria grunted but obeyed, wiping almost dried blood from under his nose. When Zarbon nodded to Frieza's corpse, Dodoria sprang to life, murdering Vegeta with a threatening glare.

"You bastard," Dodoria seethed, grinding a fist into an open palm, "You're going to pay for that, Vegeta. We'll avenge Frieza if it's the last thing we do."

"Bulma," Vegeta whispered, standing straighter and preparing to fight, "On my command, you will run."

"Are you kidding me?" She balled his jacket into her palms, her tone wet with unshed tears. "I'm not leaving you, Vegeta. We're going home, but I can't do that if-"

"Bulma!" Vegeta looked over his shoulder, his eyes offering no hint of negotiation. "Please. I need you to get out of here. I'll be alright, but I'll be damned if something happens to you. Trust me."

"But-"

"Trust me, Bulma," he smiled the best he could, begging with everything he had in him that she could go. The truth was…Vegeta didn't know how much strength he had in him to defend them against Zarbon and Dodoria. Didn't know if he could properly take one on, let alone both of them. He truthfully didn't know if he would survive a jump attack like this one, but he knew one thing and one thing for certain:

Bulma and their child would survive. They had to.

"I love you," he said before turning back to them, his mouth pressing into a straight line, "Now go."

He heard her whimper and then felt her fingers reluctantly leave his back. He felt a little bit colder when she did, but he also felt relieved. This time he would protect them, even if it meant his own life in the process was given.

"That won't be necessary, Vegeta."

His blood stilled, the voice coming from the shadows. Zarbon and Dodoria looked equally as confused, their attention to Vegeta temporarily forgotten as they scanned their surroundings. They might have not recognized that voice….but Vegeta did. And he followed the trail of which it came from to his right, to the entrance of the dock.

To the entrance where a long haired man walked slowly, a pistol pointed in their direction.

Raditz!

Raditz had a steady arm as the gun directed itself towards Zarbon and Dodoria, his eyes focused and serious. Bulma gasped, her hands finding home in Vegeta's jacket again as she exclaimed he was the guy from the wedding and Kakarot's brother. Raditz looked over to her and smiled, nodding lightly. "I'm really sorry that you had to go through that, Bulma. I guess I showed up in the nick of time."

"Raditz," Zarbon spat, the corners of his mouth pooling with saliva. "You fucking traitorous bastard, what the hell are you doing pointing that thing at us!?"

Raditz threw his head back and laughed, his bright canines sparkling in the night. "Traitor? Why, in order to be a traitor Zarbon, doesn't that imply that some sort of treaty was in place originally?" His face straightened itself out, his eyes glimmering with malice. "I have no obligation to you, Dodoria, or Frieza for that matter."

"You…" Zarbon had his second awakening in a matter of minutes as he looked from Frieza's body to Raditz, his eyes growing colder by the minute. "You killed him? After the mercy he'd given you?"

"Mercy? You call killing my father after sending him to kill his comrade and his innocent family mercy? You call the hell that you and your boss placed on their children mercy? I wouldn't say that's any kind act, would you, Vegeta?"

Vegeta looked back and forth from Raditz to Zarbon and Dodoria carefully, still holding Bulma behind him territorially. This…this didn't make sense. Raditz!? The man who was such a coward that he couldn't even go to the police in the first place against Frieza had actually shot him?

What the hell kind of life had they been born into?

"Raditz," Vegeta demanded, speaking with the same authority he gave his orchestra, "How did you even know to come here?"

Raditz smiled, pulling out his cellphone and dangling it in the air. "Nappa said that Frieza had gotten ahold of Bulma and drug you out here into the docks. I…I remember hearing from my father a long time ago that this dock is nicknamed Frieza's Graveyard. That he takes all of his victims out here to be killed and disposes of their body in some acid vats here. Isn't that right, Zarbon? Frieza had some little…arrangement with the owners here. No one was going to leave here alive tonight, not even you Vegeta. No one outside of those three, that is. As soon as Nappa told me, I rushed over. And," Raditz features softened then, remorse swimming across his face, "And I did what I had to do."

"You fucking ape!" Zarbon, in all of his stupidity, lunged towards Raditz, despite Dodoria telling him to stop. Raditz, the coward that Vegeta thought he was, fired a direct shot into his leg, making Zarbon fall to the floorboards groaning. "You…you shot me!"

"And I'll do it again if you so much as look at me wrong," he threatened, but even Vegeta could hear the hesitancy in his tone. Raditz looked over to them then, his eyes sympathetic. "You guys okay? I'm really sorry about the blood Bulma, but I couldn't let him shoot you."

"It's okay," Bulma whispered, as quiet as a mouse, her body still pressed into Vegeta's back like a shy babe to its mother.

"We're fine Raditz." Vegeta swallowed, looking at the man with a renewed sense of confidence. Not too long ago he had considered Raditz to be less of a man, to hold a smoking gun and refuse to use it, passing along the responsibility to someone else. But….but if it wasn't for Raditz, they would all be dead. And so he followed up with a, "Thank you Raditz. I owe you my life."

Raditz chuckled and shook his head, waving the gun back and forth between Zarbon and Dodoria. "Nonsense, Vegeta. It was actually I who owed you something. And now I've delivered. I…I should have done more for your family, maybe they'd still be alive. But I hope taking out the bastard who did it is a good start."

Vegeta stood there speechless, unable to form a coherent sentence to articulate how he felt. Raditz….Raditz had gotten his vengeance for his father. He had gotten vengeance for himself, for having to walk around with the guilt of the dead, for having to look at Vegeta for years and not be able to say something about it. But…but he had also gotten Vegeta's vengeance too. For his family. For Bulma. For him.

He could never thank the man enough.

"Don't move Dodoria!" Raditz shouted, gripping the handle tighter. Vegeta turned to see Dodoria drop his hands, clearly about to take out a weapon of some sort. "I'll fucking shoot you right here, right now. Be a good boy and wait patiently, I've arranged a ride for you and Zarbon."

Dodoria's eyes widened before narrowing, snarling as he probably killed them all in his head. "Just you wait, fucking Raditz. You know, I had the pleasure of taking the final blow against your dad. Got to see the light drain out from his eyes reaaaaal nice and slow, you know? I can't wait until I get to do the same thing to you."

"Oh?" Raditz mouth curved up into a smile, dangling the phone again in his hands. "Care to say more, Dodoria? Please, go ahead and incriminate yourself, I'm sure the police would love to hear the rest."

"You've been recording?" Bulma's tone was as clear as running waters, the stress in her voice almost gone. "That's really smart of you."

"I knew better than to show up here empty handed. If we're going to get evidence, we need to make it good." Just then, far in the distance until it grew louder and louder, sirens played their song as police cars flooded the dock, zooming in at such a high speed that Vegeta was afraid they were all going to get run over.

"What the fuck!?" Zarbon screamed, clutching his bloodied leg and glaring at Raditz. "I swear Raditz, you'll regret this! I don't care how long it takes, I will find a way to kill you!"

"Hmph, good luck," Raditz smiled, dropping the gun as the police stormed from their vehicles, racing towards them. "I'm sure you'll have a lot of time to plot something. Better make it good, princess." Raditz turned to Vegeta again, his eyes sad and distant. "I'm really sorry Vegeta. I…I had to make it up to you. I know my apology won't bring them back, but this was the least I could do."

Vegeta had no time to reply as the scene erupted with officers. A swarm of them gathered around Dodoria and Zarbon, gathering them in handcuffs and hurriedly reading them their rights. They took them to the car like they were animals, chained and tamed and ready to be displayed at the local circus. A few officers high fived each other, exclaiming delight in finally being able to arrest members of Frieza's gang.

"Hey," Bulma whispered, stepping to Vegeta's side, "I know these guys. These are the officers that were there when I went to bail out Yamcha." As if she spoke them up, two of them walked towards them with Nappa in tow, one of the officers sporting a serious expression that offered little to no room for games. A face much similar to his own, Vegeta thought.

The other one, who's face was equally as serious but held less of the intimidating glow, smiled widely as he looked over to Bulma. "Aaah, Miss Briefs. So nice to see you again, minus the circumstances that is. You know, after you came by that day I went home and told my whole neighborhood that I met the Bulma Briefs. Most of them aren't into sciences, but still they said that-"

"Nail." The officer with the intimidating face, who's name badge read Piccolo, scolded his partner, shaking his head with disapproval. "Wrong place, wrong time."

Bulma scoffed mockingly. Vegeta made a mental note to ask about it later.

Officer Piccolo offered them two blankets and an apologetic smile, one that seemed forced and unnecessary. "I'm very sorry you all had to go through this ordeal. I know it's a lot right now, but in a few I'll need to take you to the hospital and then down to the station for statements. Shouldn't be too long, considering everything we have against them already. I suppose you can thank Nappa for that. He's been the brains behind this whole operation, as much as I don't want to admit it."

"Yes excellent job with the file drive," Nail, the other officer, dipped his hat in their direction. "Years worth of evidence was in there, I was pretty surprised. Only shame is that we couldn't actually get Frieza, seeing that someone took justice into their own hands. God, when will people learn?"

At that moment Vegeta overlooked all of them to see Raditz being cuffed himself and led away to the police cars. Something hot boiled inside of Vegeta's chest and he wanted to slap all of these officers around silly. "What the hell are you all doing?! He saved our lives for fuck's sake!"

"We understand, sir," Officer Piccolo started, "But murder is still murder. That's why you wait for the police to show up instead. Besides," he said with a sigh, "It's just protocol at this point. That guy's name is written all over those documents. I'm sure he's got a pretty lengthy statement to give about Frieza and his goons. Could put them all away for a long time. I'm sure the state will work out some sort of deal with him. Can't see him doing jail time for very long if so."

"Jail time!?" Bulma squeaked, ignoring Vegeta's heavy arm and standing in Officer Piccolo's face. "Excuse me officer, but I was just almost killed! In fact, if Raditz hadn't have shown up when he did, you would have come to two dead bodies and not just one! And Frieza would've gotten away with it as always!"

"Oh come on, Miss Briefs," Officer Nail threw his hands up, his respect for Bulma overshadowing his authority, "We've got to arrest the guy. For one, it ensures a solid testimony. And for two, it's our job. Do you really think that every person sitting in a jail cell right now is there because they're guilty?"

"That doesn't make it right! He saved my life! Where's the justice in his arrest!?"

Nappa laughed heartedly, throwing his hand on his stomach. "My my, you've certainly gotten a feisty one, Vegeta! She reminds me a lot of Natsumi!" He stepped forward and placed a hand on Bulma's shoulder, staring down at her with confidence. "Don't worry your pretty little head about it, Raditz will be alright. He's got good information here to shut down Frieza's whole gang and I'm guessing quite a few others too. No way the court won't want to utilize that, and Raditz will get a good lawyer who'll see to it that he gets the best deal."

"You're damned right he will!" Bulma rolled her eyes, clearly knowing she had no victory in this fight. "Because I'm paying for it. I'll testify myself, if I have to. Raditz is a good man and…and…" Bulma's voice trailed off, the edges of her tone cracking with emotion. "And if it weren't for him, I'd be dead."

Nappa smiled reassuringly, patting the top of her head as she sniffled and wiped the back of her eyes with her sleeve. "I know, love. I know. You owe him a lot, we all do. That's why I'm telling you not to worry. Raditz will survive, I believe it." He turned around and called out to Raditz, making the officers escorting him stop in their tracks. "You good, Raditz!? The lady here is worried about ya!"

Raditz smiled, looking to Bulma and nodding. "I'd do it all again if I had to, Bulma. These nice guys here will take care of me. They're already talking about buying me food, and not the rotten jail kind!"

Nail laughed at that while Piccolo groaned. "Softies, the lot of them," Piccolo grunted, "Always buying food for the criminals they like. I say get that man a sandwich and call it a night."

"That's why you don't have friends, Piccolo," Nail tapped his shoulder, still chuckling.

They walked away then, leaving Nappa, Vegeta and Bulma to put the pieces back together of this long night. Vegeta extended his arm out to his uncle, swallowing thickly as he struggled to catch the rhythm of his breath again. "You came through for me, Nappa. You kept your word and for that, I thank you."

Nappa stared at his hand for a moment, looking at it as if it were a foreign object. As the silence stretched between them, Nappa stepped forward heavily and pulled Vegeta into a tight embrace.

Vegeta, he….he had never been hugged by a man before. His father had no time for such affections, and Tarble's were so sugary sweet that Vegeta often felt like he was doing the consoling. But Nappa….there was something fatherly about this hug. Something fatherly and warm and protective about it. And with Bulma watching them, with a slight nod in her head and tears in her eyes, Vegeta leaned into it, slowly, and awkwardly, putting his hands around Nappa's back.

"We did it," Nappa's thick voice, usually the voice of reason in Vegeta's life, began to crack, the exhaustion and worries over the past few months hitting him blindly. "You hear me, huh? We did it son. You're….you're safe. And Bulma….she's safe too. I….I protected my family this time." His voice on the last work broke completely, and Vegeta felt the dampness of Nappa's tears stain his cheeks.

Was this…was this what young boys experienced when they hugged their fathers? Did…did they feel this same sort of love and understanding and protection? Bulma had made him feel like this ten times over every time she blinked at him….but Nappa…Nappa was giving Vegeta something that he thought he would never get.

Paternal affection.

"Now you can live your life, Vegeta! Now you can live your life and start over. Put this mess behind ya! Do it for Bulma, and your child. Do it for Yasai and Tarble….and your father too. I know…I know he wasn't the best, but he loved you Vegeta. And I know he's sorry. I know he's so sorry for all of this."

It was the final break of his dam. The words Vegeta needed so desperately to hear, the words he never thought that he would.

Without his consent, his eyes watered and spilled over onto his cheeks. He tried to stop, tried to stop feeling like a damned fool, but they kept coming and coming. He stared straight ahead as he held onto Nappa, grabbing hold of him like it was the first time he had learned to show affection. He could thank Bulma for teaching him such things.

"It's alright, Veggie," Nappa chuckled, whispering a nickname that Yasai and Natsumi called Vegeta when he was younger. "Just let it out. You deserve this moment, okay? You deserve all of this." He patted Vegeta on the back, and Vegeta allowed himself to soak in the moment.

He…he did deserve all of this. Bulma, his child, his future…a family….he deserved everything. He had survived hell and back, had managed to stay afloat with all of his demons making him sink. Had thought that Frieza just might…just might win in this fight. Thought that Bulma had died…that his life was over…

But just as Nappa had said…his life was just beginning.

He sniffled and wiped his eyes, allowing Nappa to pat him one last time in the hug before they pulled away from each other, Nappa's mouth stretched into a wide grin. He had managed to cease his own tears as Vegeta finished drying his. "Don't tell Natsumi about this hug, she'll expect us to do it all of the time." Vegeta himself chuckled at that, finally composed enough to look his uncle in the eyes. "I'm proud of you Vegeta," Nappa nodded towards Bulma, a knowing grin sleeping in his irises. "Real proud. Now we can carry out step two."

Bulma's eyebrow rose in confusion as Vegeta rolled his eyes. Leave it to Nappa to spoil things, even though they were already spoiled. Nappa gave Bulma a hug and a kiss on the cheek, whispering something in her ear that made her blush. He would have to ask her about that later on too.

As the scene around them died down, they found themselves alone on the dock, the lull of the water behind them acting as a musical score. Vegeta's phone vibrated as Bulma stepped closer to him, a text message from Kakarot on the screen.

Hey, Vegeta! We've been looking for ya! Whis too! He said he LOVED the concert! He even said that he has an offer none of us can refuse! NONE OF US! Does this mean that he's going to hire us as a unit? How sweet is that!? Are you coming back? We're going out to eat, call me okay! Good job, conductor! :-D

Vegeta rolled his eyes -although a playful grin began to birth on his face- and shut his phone, deciding to deal with one thing after another. Besides, there was something and someone who deserved his undivided attention at the moment.

Those eyes that could move mountains and start wars looked up at him with the affection that had been missing in Vegeta's life since before she entered. Absolutely beautiful, like a sonnet of sunrise after nightfall, and captivating. Bulma threw her arms around his middle, resting her head against his chest. "It's over," she breathed a sigh of relief, wrapping herself into his arms. "It's all over now, I'm so happy."

"We've got to get you to a hospital, Bulma," he said against her hair, pulling her closer. "Our child…I need to make certain."

She nodded, pulling back and staring into his face. "We'll go right away, I promise. I just need to breathe for a second, soak all of this in. Is it possible, Vegeta, that we really get to live out lives now without impending doom? That we can live….happily?"

He didn't answer her.

Instead he brought his face to hers, pulling her lips into his own as he let his kiss answer her, tasting her with a sense of renewal and rebirth. God, how good it felt to kiss the woman he loved without fear that he would taint her soul into oblivion. How good it felt to know that this was the first day of many tomorrows, of many next weeks and next years.

This was what Vegeta wanted. Not fame. Not fortune. Not his name on some Broadway marquee.

All Vegeta wanted was a chance to play music and a second chance at having the family he deserved. A family that his mother, and Tarble and yes, even his father, would be proud to see him have.

And all it took was a yes.

Vegeta pulled away from her then, caressing the sides of her face and looking at her as if he was seeing her for the first time. How did the universe manage to smile down on him and gift him with the greatest composition of them all? How he had managed to have Bulma in his life, after all of their petty arguments, after all of their disagreements and their worlds falling apart around them, was a mystery he never wanted to question.

And with that, he dropped down.

Bulma's face, even though they had talked about it, even though he told her this was what he wanted, still looked as hopeful as if Vegeta was asking her for the first time. "When I woke up this morning," he started, grabbing her hand into his own, "I didn't know how today would end. I was afraid, I was sick to my stomach with worry, and the only thing that calmed me down was you. The only thing that ever calms me down is you." Bulma took a deep breath, the corners of her eyes glistening under the moon's rays.

"I…I've never believed in the idea of soulmates. I thought it was some fairy tale that the lonely invented to make themselves feel better when their relationships failed. Love seemed so unnecessary that I never cared for it. I'm not a romantic, I don't like being overly affectionate, but back then in the alley with you kicking the wall, that day, I changed my mind."

He reached into his pocket, fisting around for his prize. And when he found it, a small yellow box with an old ribbon wrapped around it, he opened it and let her see the inside.

For the rest of his life, he would always remember how her eyes sparkled when she saw it.

"This was my mother's ring, the same one my father proposed to her with. She used….She used to tell me and Tarble that when he gave her this ring, she knew he never loved her more. It's an antique, something she had always wanted instead of a modern ring, and I held onto it after the funeral. Even with all my pessimism, it seemed like life knew that one day I was going to meet you. And here I am."

"And here you are," she whispered, mocking a conversation they had so long ago. Back when, under the influence of whisky, Vegeta had kissed her for the first time. He chuckled.

"Bulma I…I'm not perfect. I'm not always the nicest or easiest to get along with. And I can be stubborn and selfish and impatient. But you…you seem to make me feel like I'm worth it. And…And I could never repay you. But I promise you I'll spend my life trying to until my last breath. So Bulma Briefs, the smart, intelligent, talented, creative and beautiful Bulma Briefs, will you continue this journey with me? And…And will you be my wife?"

Even though she had already answered this question before, the look of delight that captured her face made Vegeta's heart break and heal itself over and over again. She dropped down with him, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him, holding her hand out as he slid the ring on her finger. The perfect fit.

"I've experienced heaven and hell with you, Vegeta," she said as she pulled back, smiling at him as if it were the first time she'd learn to use her lips, "And I'll do it every day for the rest of my life, Mr. N'Ouija."

Vegeta had a flashback to the day she was shopping for a dress to the wedding. To the day when she tried on that gown, to when he envisioned her walking down the aisle towards him. He didn't tell her that since that day, this was all he could think about. When to propose, how to propose, and if she would even accept it in the first place. But now…now after everything…it was perfect. A perfect ending to a hellish story, a book that Vegeta finally held the pen for.

So under the new moon, under the stars that shined on the start of their new era, Vegeta brushed the hair from his fiancé's face and said:

"I'll hold you to that, Mrs. N'Ouija."

oooOOOooo

A/N:

We're not done yet! There's still ONE more chapter! An epilogue! Time to wrap this story up the right way!

Thank you, thank you THANK YOU for all of your reviews or kudos or favorites for Concerto. I'll save my emotional post for the last chapter, but I'm in such a happy place writing this that it's going to spill over a bit here. This will be the first story I have EVER finished outside of Oracular Spectacular, my first Smutfest 2016 entry.

Thank you all for sticking around with me this past year and some change. The next chapter will give you all the ending that everyone deserves. Give me a few weeks (maybe shorter) to get it out. After the reviews from last week, I didn't want to leave you guys hanging too much. Please read and review!

I seriously love you all and I can never thank you enough.