Disclaimer: I don't own Dragon Ball but I wish I owned Vegeta
This little ficlet has its origins in Episode 62 of Dragon Ball Super where Vegeta overhears Bulma glorifying Goku's abilities to save the day, while he's left in the dust. That episode gave me a Hulk level of rage, which any idea from Toei is wont to do. Thank god we have Toyotaro to provide fuel for Vegebul fires. But I thought it'd be interesting to explore this one last sore point in Bulma and Vegeta's otherwise happy marriage.
The problem to overthrow Zamasu was universal yet that did not prevent Vegeta from being distracted by problems that were much closer to home. He had been pacing the sinuous trails of Capsule Corp., wracking his brains for a strategy that would subvert the threat to his future son's timeline but he was only coming up short. After each impractical approach, he'd solemnly repeat to himself, "There's a way, there's always a way."
Such a declaration would have been unimaginable from the man he was around the time of the Cell Games; however, over the years, Bulma had distilled a few drops of positivism from the overwhelming despair that grimed all his insides. His future son had not been there to observe the gradual phases of his father's evolution to if not a good man, a better man, and such a simple reassurance to not give up hope from his once coldly taciturn father had been enough to lift him from out of his own melancholic defeatism.
But all of a sudden, Vegeta felt his naïve optimism clogging his arteries while his buried pessimism leapt from his veins. Not even behind his back, for Bulma would not care enough to be discreet, but out in the open for all to hear, she was upbraiding their present son along with Kakarot's youngest in their misguided enthusiasm to also travel to the future to clobber their enemies, piece of cake.
"Of course you can't! They aren't people you two could beat! Even Son-kun couldn't beat them! Leave it to Son-kun! Son-kun's gonna take care of them, so you two wait here."
Son-kun. Two syllables and two direct hits to the heart.
His son and Goten stared sullenly at the ground, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, with only one more muttered word of protest, "But!" before Bulma emphatically shut them down again, brainwashing them and channeling all their faith into her beloved Kakarot when their faith had been a lot more evenly dispersed amongst the other warriors before.
Here Vegeta was to bear witness to two more Saiyans losing their innocence and belief in their own abilities and anyone else's, and who were only ready to be frightened children cowering behind Kakarot's dogi strings in the face of danger.
In one second, Vegeta zigzagged through the many stages of righteous indignation. He shrank further out of view, wanting to dodge the conflict, the discomfort, the potential for shame, criticism and self-pity. This avoidance quickly switched to him pretending that he hadn't heard anything and that he didn't care, until some of his rationality returned and he decided to ultimately try to control the situation. "Shut up," he began to roar before he was interrupted and outclassed yet again, this time by Chi Chi's shrill screeching.
After Chi Chi had been sufficiently mollified regarding Goten's whereabouts, Bulma headed back inside the house, leaving Vegeta to deal with the fallout from her ritual emotional abuse.
The turbulence and disorder that had raged between him and Bulma during the earlier periods of their relationship had all but calmed and they now had an unbreakable bond. They had healed, albeit imperfectly, and there were still sharp bits of shrapnel hidden around their vital organs that couldn't ever be removed and would re-emerge every now and again in a million microcuts.
And the biggest machete cut between them would always be Kakarot - due to his continued obsession with surpassing him even if it were more of a benign and friendly competitiveness now and to her almost religious belief that Kakarot would right all their wrongs even better than the Super Dragon Balls could do. In the past, the friction in their relationship had been a consequence of his actions, but now she was the one at fault. It was Goku, always Goku, Bulma was always pressing that Goku button. It was Pavlovian at this point that Bulma would bleat "Son-kun can do it, Son-kun will save us," without any cognizance that he as her husband was more than capable and more than willing to slay all the scary monsters and to rescue his own queen of hearts from distress.
She broke his heart every time and it was made all the more terrible for him being strong enough to withstand it blow by blow and to be able to sustain the pain, silently emitting only casual grouchiness that was innate to him and that no one would be able to pinpoint on any one complex. Yet he would never again deliberately hurt her to lessen his own hurt, he had put her through enough.
He had to rally his courage to have no expectations considering her loyalties and that would be true power. However, he still was a cowardly man because he desperately yearned for her approval as a warrior, so he would cycle between expectation and disappointment, emotions that were not immediate relations but cousins once removed. There was no courage in clinging to an ideal that would just let him down, and as he fell, his heart would be injured by the jagged rocks below more than would have ever been possible before because he had ventured so far and surrendered so uninhibitedly to love.
Faith is an aberration, doubt is ordinary and he had already collected more faith than he deserved from her especially after all those years of torment he had subjected her to while she patiently waited for him to come around and love her. And now that he loved her, she could finally punish him to the fullest extent of her every day cruelty and doubt him in this one regard and so he would let her do it without confrontation and with the utmost compliance. It was his price to pay. He had spent countless years being disappointed by the universe, he really didn't have it in him to be disappointed in her too. He tried to put it all in perspective that as long as Zamasu was defeated and his son's future was assured, then the means of that success didn't matter as long as the end was justified. He just had to accept that bad things happened for no reason in alternate time lines and sometimes even right in your own backyard.
Vegeta had retired to their bedroom after exhausting all the possible options to defeat Zamasu and being unable to settle on a solution. He was sitting on the edge of the bed as he slashed his broken armour from off his body and tore his gloves from his hands in frustration. Mirai Trunks and chibi Trunks still idolized him and as it stood with his lack of battle plan, he was going to forsake that trust being only a counterfeit idol while Kakarot with his uncanny strokes of brilliance on the battlefield would win their allegiance too.
As he sunk further into the bed and his depression, Bulma stumbled into the room with her lab coat frayed and eyes pouched and her mouth stitched in a distraught expression that revealed the beginnings of a wrinkle at the contour of her cheek. She must have also been worrying about their future son as she finished repairing the time machine.
Bulma spotted him slouching motionless on the bed and she ran to him, collapsing in between his legs, her head perched on his lap, only her short locks of hair visible as she erupted into sobs, her nails digging wildly into his pants. Initially, Vegeta bristled but just as quickly, he was ashamed. His wife needed him and he could not refuse her. Instead, he cloaked her in his arms, tenderly rubbing the back of her head and reeling her into an embrace.
"Vegeta," she croaked dismally, "our son...he's fighting in the future all alone, he's strong but how long can he hold Zamasu off for? "Son-kun," she paused, "you have to annihilate him and save that timeline for our son and future me. Son-kun...you two, will surely beat Zamasu."
There it was again, all this aggravation from a man who was completely oblivious to the chaos he inflicted on other people's lives and marriages. It was mind-boggling in its senseless catastrophe. So Bulma remembered him after all, just as a postscript, a backup option, a last resort to success. Kakarot would always remain the hero, the first line of response, so that relegated him to the second line, the sidekick who did not even have the honour of being the villain anymore. And what stung most of all was that she had just seen him fight, and still she deemed him inadequate. But he would not throw her aside like his current revulsion was urging him to do, rather he hugged her closer and nodded rigidly.
She kissed him lightly in weary gratitude and Vegeta bristled again, almost snarling, 'Go lavish your kisses elsewhere, why not just give it all to Kakarot as you've always done? I'm not subsisting on these scraps of affection from you. All I taste is treason from your lips.'
Bulma kissed him more urgently, spreading herself across the bed and yanking Vegeta on top of her, needing him in more ways than one. Even in his disgust, he was still aroused by her despite knowing he was just her comfort Saiyan and not her saviour, but if she needed a sympathetic ear not just a body she could have gone and cried to Chi Chi instead of him.
But he needed a comfort woman at that moment too. He could fuck her up, molest her emotions as thoroughly as she had done to his, and then go back to the future, shouldering this burden alone. For what use could he have for a wife that didn't have faith in her own husband besides a pity fuck? Maybe Bulma would feel it now, feel it tearing up her insides as he pounded into her, feel that he also deserved to be counted alongside Kakarot. What else did he have to do to earn her trust to protect their family and the Earth? He kissed her deeply, biting down on her lip until it bled.
'I thought you understood me like no one else could when you've been betraying me in your head and heart all along. I abandoned my soul's privacy for your intimacy and still you betray me. I knew before, I shouldn't have forgotten, that you're just an unloyal bitch, who will go running, yapping, tail wagging, with big blue puppy dog eyes held aloft to the shiny bells and whistles of the only hero you've ever known. You didn't realize that I was still here, I have been protecting you, I would have still protected you, but that godly varnish of a hero is more attractive to you than the shabby mutt with the darkness sheathed around him, who walked over the coals for you, who bears the marks of defeat, who renounced the comfort of his personal demons and hell for you! No, none of that was enough to inspire faith because it's all been a grubby hard won victory, and you prefer someone clean and untarnished to lay your plaudits on.'
Love didn't conquer all. And just because they loved each other, their love didn't shield him from her prejudice. It was a cold immutable fact that no person, no matter how beloved, would ever truly understand him.
'Don't have faith in me, do as you please, it is no concern of mine, but don't you ever undermine me to my son whose faith isn't as temporal as the seasons, when you'll just leave me for greener pastures at the first sign of frost.'
He groaned, his venom getting swallowed up by the antivenom her body always provided. His head rested beneath her collarbone, as he flexed further into her.
'Maybe I haven't done much to win your undying devotion like Kakarot has, but I thought I had done enough. I thought we had something that transcended that.'
He felt Bulma shuddering beneath him in the throes of her crisis and all he could envision was her telling him to take it easy to make way for Kakarot during the Universal Tournament. Next, it was Chi Chi teasing Bulma at that party after Buu's defeat about her wanting her husband. Bulma had denied it despite the flush that soared across her features, and her friends had begun laughing at some sort of inside joke that had just came off in bad taste to him because why wouldn't Bulma prefer the alpha male to the beta?
Finally, overwhelmed by pleasure, Bulma revealed where her true loyalties lay. The doubts that were overcast in her eyes cleared, and with a fibre of strength in her cut-off breaths said, "You will avenge me and our son. I love you Vegeta."
She loved him, she just didn't believe in him.
And he tricked himself into believing the feigned sincerity of her bashfully uttered words. All the fondness he possessed for her swelled up into one inexpressibly wonderful climax, completely removing the blemished and charred crust of his anger. The black wax that had been threatening to cover his heart once more, liquified and oozed away, as hot and powerless as a blown out candle, because he loved her so much even now and the protective layer of detachment and callousness that he had coated around himself in the past couldn't save him, and his grief was his to bear as an open wound. He loved her so much that he didn't even have to forgive her since he could not bring himself to be embittered against her long enough for forgiveness to be needed. The bittersweet taste of her mouth allowed him to ignore her overlooking his abilities despite his credentials being all there because there was the all-consuming nature of their relationship that emotionally stunted Kakarot could never rival.
He was spiralling through a stream of memories and he remembered that since she had been a teenager, Kakarot had been the Earth's saviour. It was her default mode to look to him for assistance and that it shouldn't detract from his own accomplishments and her own faith in him. He knew she considered him strong and capable and he had never felt as accomplished upon hearing her praise as he had on the day of that 'My Bulma' outburst despite not being victorious over Beerus. She would still wax poetic about his sacrificing himself for them with all the reverence in the world. He shouldn't let some careless remarks overshadow how much she believed in him.
At heart, he knew that Bulma only wanted Kakarot as the main fighter so that she wouldn't see him come to any harm, despite her preference wounding him more than any beating could. And also that she couldn't live without him, and that his secondary place in battle wouldn't make him any less noble in her estimation. Lastly, he recalled that Bulma was the first one to donate energy for the Genki Dama when he had appealed to the people of the Earth to save themselves from Buu, that she was always his loudest cheerleader in any tournament and that she was shit-talking Kakarot to Chi Chi over whose husband would triumph in the Tenkaichi Budokai. Their lovemaking just then, it was a beautifully tainted thing.
"Vegeta, where are you going?"
There was no cuddling, no further carnal closeness immediately following his release that expelled so much stress from him but still left his disappointment lagging behind. Bulma's eyes drooped shut and the downward extinguish of her voice announced that sleep has about to overtake her while his insecurity and arrogance were confusingly dually awakened by her.
The room of spirit and time. He needed to buy more time. He could visualize each infinitesimal grain of sand in the hourglass of time trickling down mercilessly, unseized and unaccounted for forever, and there was only so much time left until Trunks would fall, out of reach and out of time. Vegeta would not let his son wage another unwinnable battle against Zamasu when he had been the last hope pitted against the androids already, while he as his father, was safe in a fortuitous past that was frozen in time.
"Get some rest. You still have to pilot the time machine. I will return in a few hours."
The hard grit to his voice, alerted Bulma to something from their own past, a vestige of the cold man he used to be, who was impervious to her. Bulma's eyes ripped open and she sprung up from the bed. "Shouldn't you get some rest too? I'm sure Son-kun isn't training right now."
A glacial silence.
"Vegeta, have I done something wrong?"
Vegeta was already halfway out the door and he did not stop for her, he could not stand to look upon her emotional infidelity. He only cursed between his teeth, "Don't fret Bulma, you know you still have my heart," and in the quietest hiss, he added, "but if only I could have yours too and your respect."
In the blinding whiteness and density of nothingness in the room of spirit and time, he girded himself to surpass his limits once again. He knew he was strong and could get stronger still because he had endured more than others and had survived. His hardships were his strength. He would burn his sufferings to the ground and use it as fuel, illumination and warmth. He would shatter that timeline and that false god who had tried to break his son and thus the indomitable Saiyan spirit. In his inexhaustible capacity to do better and to prove her wrong, tomorrow, Bulma would be the one heralding him as Vegeta-sama, her champion!
Maybe heroes really are born and not made and he was just a former sinner whose purpose had been voluntarily displaced. But there would be no other identity crises from him, no Majin regression, because sometimes roles are thrust upon you and to your surprise, you discover how well suited you are to take up the helm of leadership that had once seemed so abhorrent to you before. No, Vegeta was still nobody's hero, but maybe he had adapted into the more fitting trappings of family man and it was a front that Kakarot had only bungled with two children whereas he had just been given a fresh start.
The bundle in his arms fidgeted slightly in its sleep, the small hand swiping through the air for its father's fingers. Vegeta stared down at his daughter who relaxed once more in his hold, letting out a contented wisp of baby's breath that was as lovely and delicate as the flowers that bore the name. She was the most mesmerizing living and breathing incarnation of marvel and beauty he had ever seen, and he had helped create her. It was awing and humbling all at once, and it effaced any last trauma that ravaged inside him. Not favouring him in appearance except for that fivehead Bulma's mother had pointed out and the spur of hair, but definitely favouring him in affection, he was the only one that could completely silence her tears. She'd reach for him more than her mother, he had earned her first smile and he would make certain that papa was her first word.
There were precious few minutes remaining until he would be whisked away by Whis to compete in the Tournament of Power upon which their very existences hinged. And at this crossroads, where he might not ever turn back or ever move forward but be erased on the spot, he took refuge where he could in his baby daughter's bedroom and although he had taken her to his chest, Bra was the one cradling him into an unfeeling calm so that the bough holding back his fury at the injustice and tyranny of the situation wouldn't break. How had they landed yet again in another impossible situation? How to defeat so many other universes whose skills were untested and with so many other unknowns?
His confidence was shaken, and his thoughts travelled back to his last ignominious joint effort in taking down Zamasu alongside Kakarot and Trunks. Trunks had valiantly earned a new power-up that had pulverized Zamasu until his disobedient spirit had been scattered across the interwebs of the cosmos. But his final deletion was farcically resolved by divine intervention, literally it was one press of a button and Zeno had instantly wiped Zamasu and that entire timeline away. What uses did their trump cards of Mafuba, Kaoiken, fusion and new power-ups have against a fucking button? It was a happy ending of sorts for Trunks, who had another alternate timeline to seek shelter in after the erasure of his own.
The best and brightest in Universe 7 couldn't even quell one irate god, so what other tricks could they have up their sleeves that would prove effective? Pulling a rabbit out of a hat? He chuckled morosely to himself and stopped once he felt Bra's hand squeezing his fingers.
She was a roughshod feral little thing already with all the spirit of her mother and all the violence of her father and her hand pressed his harder until he exclaimed, "You're right Bra, I'm the prince of all Saiyans, no one will defeat me, I will be the last man standing."
"I'm the prince of all Saiyans? Where have I heard that line before?"
Bulma came into the room and sidled up beside him. She looked to his side, batting her eyelashes coquettishly. "You're not going to kiss your beautiful wife goodbye? It's not like anyone is here to see it."
Bulma rested her head on his shoulder, gazing down at the touching scene of a father and daughter bonding moment. "You really love her, don't you?"
Vegeta clutched Bra tighter to himself, watching her dotingly. "Yes, because she is steadfast to me."
Not detecting the scathingness, Bulma continued, "You're going to ensure our survival especially that of your newborn princess's by winning that tournament, being the MVP and bringing me back those Super Dragon Balls, right?
Vegeta carefully placed Bra back in her crib, then said a bit brusquely despite the grin tugging at his lips. "You think it'll be that easy? You heard Whis, there are mortals in other universes stronger than gods of destruction. Shouldn't you be frightened?"
"So what? You're a god too now, a Super Saiyan Blue God and that form can perform miracles and beat anyone into submission." She winked at him, "I know this from ahem, personal experience. And you might even receive a power-up from being challenged by so many adversaries all at once? Ascended Super Saiyan Blue God 2 or hmm, Super Saiyan White or Super Saiyan 4 even might be just around the corner."
His hand slotted around her waist, drawing her in. There were still times following their foray into the future where Bulma's trust in him and her seriousness were more flexible than he would have liked, such as when she had shamelessly flirted with Zamasu to buy their son time to assemble the Mafuba and her reckless cheering on of both him and Yamacha during that twin universes baseball match. But for the first time, when it was actually important, the stakes being so high, she was inconceivably only calling his name. This was extraordinary, unprecedented, was it real? It demoted the unspoken rift between them as null and void and as inconsequential as all those other universes that would unfortunately have to be erased in order for them to survive.
He wondered what could have inspired this change in her or was it simply the result of continual growth between the two of them where their relationship had matured from rough patches to something sky high? Had he proved himself to her at last via becoming a good father to all their children future or otherwise? If he could feel the last lethal fragments of his hollow shell being excised from his body at Bra's birth maybe Bulma had received a similar spiritual restoration and had released the last traces of bitterness that flared rarely but he knew were still there, that she held for him at being a deadbeat dad during her first pregnancy and Trunks infancy. Maybe Bra was the band-aid baby that had finally healed them once and for all. Maybe Bulma had believed in him all along and had just been sloppy and thoughtless in her delivery of communicating it? But whatever the cause, Bulma was still supplicating Vegeta's aid and his alone, and entrusting their survival just to him, and a bonfire of vanity heated up his blood and soul, a conflagration of happiness grafted onto his skin and his mouth lit up into a smile that transformed him from the invisible man into a Super Saiyan God.
"What would you like to wish for?" Bulma asked, disrupting his contemplations. "You were so good to me during my pregnancy, so how about something special just for you? Resurrecting another baddie, not Freeza though for you to fight and kill? A trip to Sadala to show those Universe 6 Saiyans who's boss and the real prince of all Saiyans? New training equipment like a replica of Whis's staff for you to play in? A new room of spirit of time, since you've always got to be a primadonna with your dramatic exits and can't help but demolish the thing?..."
With uncharacteristic softness, he lifted her chin and planted a kiss upon her lips. "Whatever you wish."
Why would he need any wishes? The one last wish he desired from her, she had just enacted and maybe it would be too greedy and would only tempt fate to wish for more moments like this. Where did he rank as a man? Alpha, beta, zeta all the way down to omega? It didn't matter. It was all just a garbled mess of alphabet soup that he would spill and leave behind, and he would spoon up her honeyed praise instead and lick it clean until there was nothing left, for he would most likely never get to feast on such treats from her again and he would be back to tasting only the thin gruel of mediocrity tomorrow.