Chapter 10 – Passion

The carriage ride back to the castle could have been described as awkward at best. A heavy silence encased the four-person transport as Bulma sat next to her husband who sat across from his brother. Radditz occupied the fourth seat across from Bulma, and in a blatant attempt to lighten the mood, exchanged some mild banter with her. Their exchange, however, seemed to fall on deaf ears as Vegeta and Kakarrot maintained a deadlocked staring match.

"So where exactly were you, Kakarrot?" Vegeta's first words since the beginning of the voyage froze Bulma and Radditz mid-thought as they turned their heads to glance at the men next to them. "I mean, you did confess to be taken care of by a 'family of generous villagers,' but you have been quite cryptic in admitting anything more. Perhaps you should tell us who these generous subjects are. They should be honored for the service they did for a member of the royal—"

"They will be left alone!" The cruelness in the prince's voice startled even his inquisitor. As if he suddenly realized how icy his tone had been, Kakarrot quickly corrected, "They are a modest, peaceful people. They would not desire any unnecessary attention."

"Of course, we will respect their wishes," Bulma tried to help smooth over the volatile overtone of his previous comment. "Though I must admit, I would very much like to meet them. I wish to thank them in person for taking such good care of you."

With a half smile, Kakarrot nodded his head, "I imagine you would." His oddly phrased response sent the carriage back into another stuffy silence. Kakarrot lowered his head, eyes closed, slowly circling his palms over one another. Radditz struck a similar posture, only with his arms crossed. Vegeta, however, kept his eyes wide open as he observed his brother's suddenly sunken form. Something about his reaction to the villagers he had been staying with the past two years did not sit well with the King; could it be that the faultless son had something to hide?

An elbow struck the pensive man in his side as he turned his head to glance down at his wife. "Don't even think about it," a pair of luscious red lips mouthed the words without echoing a sound. It seemed the young woman was concerned her husband was going to hit another of her lover's nerves.

With a partial smirk, Vegeta gently began to caress his wife's bruised cheek with the back of his right hand. "How is this doing?" he questioned just above a whisper. Why argue about his brother when they could be talking about a much more interesting topic, her. "The swelling seems to have gone down."

"It feels better," Bulma answered just as quietly so as not to disturb the men across from them.

"Good," Vegeta's eyes glued to the pale woman. "I'll have a physician properly examine you once we arrive."

"That won't be necessary," The queen's voice rose slightly. "I am fine," she lowered it once more, "really."

"Really?" Vegeta questioned with a raised brow. "Then I shall expect to see you tonight for your lessons," his lips brushed slightly against her ear when he moved closer so that no one heard his demand but whom he intended.

"Do you think that is a wise idea?" Bulma lifted her lips to meet his ear. Though every fiber of her being was telling her to pull away, she could not help but remain close to his warmth.

"Why wouldn't it be?" His hand slid down the side of her body before finding a comfortable spot on the seat cushion, directly next to her thigh. "I promise to be gentle since you are still recuperating."

"Gentle?" She did not know why she repeated the word in a voice so breathy he must have thought her exhausted. She did not know why that one word had stuck in her head, or why she wanted to hear him whisper it again, but she did. Something about the closeness of his proximity was making her heart race and logical thought difficult to conjure.

"As gentle as you like," his lips skimmed across her neck as he pulled away so his eyes could once again lock with hers, "Do not disappoint me." The statement ended on cue with a halt of the carriage. "About damn time," Vegeta's crude curse deflated the seductive mood so quickly that Bulma felt as though she had been slapped.

Still in a partial daze, she accepted her husband's hand as he guided her out of the carriage, followed closely by Kakarrot and Radditz. Once the cart had pulled away, Radditz decreed, "I shall escort the queen to her chambers." The soldier announced the orders his king had instructed him of before their departure. With every intention of carrying them out, he extended his arms for the queen to grasp.

"Actually, I think it would be best that I escort her," Kakarrot spoke up, blocking the larger man's offer. "Bulma and I barely had a moment to speak to one another last night. We still have much catching up to do."

"Yes, I suppose we do still have several things to discuss. You do not mind, of course," Bulma switched her gaze to that of her husband. Though by the dangerous gleam in his eyes she could tell he wanted to object, he voiced no such complaint.

"I do not care what the two of you do," he dismissed them like servants with a wave of his hand. "Just have your 'things' cleared up by dinner. I am ordering all elites to the castle two nights from this evening where I shall formally announce your return. I believe the two pronged announcement of your safety," he glanced down at his wife, "and your miraculous resurrection," coldly to his brother, "shall go a long way in disrupting Nexus' plans."

War, everything always came back to war with Vegeta. "Whatever you think is best," Bulma's voice dripped with false sincerity as she grabbed her childhood friend's arm and nearly dragged him in the direction of the castle. Once the pair had disappeared from sight, Bulma began with the apologies, "I am terribly sorry about him. He just—"

"—is angry," Kakarrot wrongly finished her thought as he offered a surprising observation, "But then again, anger is my brother's favorite emotion. He is clearly displeased by my return from the dead as well as my blatant interest in stealing his wife."

With a stifled laugh, Bulma disagreed heartily, "Do not feel so guilty. I assure you, Vegeta is not angry you are here, if anything he is grateful he can finally unload me."

"I seriously doubt that," Kakarrot objected sternly. "This morning when I spoke to him, he made no reference to any interest of his to unload you. In fact, he left me with the distinct impression that he wanted no confusion over whose duty it was to protect you, and in his view, it is most assuredly not me."

"You must be mistaken," Bulma insisted as she motioned for them to resume walking towards a more private location where they could hold this delicate conversation. "Vegeta does not want us to 'sully' his reputation while we are still wed, of course, but that does not mean you should treat me as though I am another man's property."

"Now that, I would never do," the odd sounding remark came as Kakarrot grasped Bulma's arms and pulled her into the nearest secluded room so that they could speak in private. Once they were shielded from interruption, Kakarrot confessed, "Bulma, there is something I want you to know."

The younger woman blinked briefly, before asking him to, "Go on."

"I can not begin to apologize for all the heartache my absence has caused you, but I swear, I will make this right for you. You have my word; I will fix the damage that has been done."

Bulma felt her eyebrow rise slightly as she listened to Kakarrot's avow; damage? heartache? He must have some horrible images of what married life to his brother has been like. Bulma was resolute to dissuade him, "It has not been so terrible for me, Kakarrot. Please do not feel so guilty. All things considered, Vegeta has treated me quite well."

"There is no need to lie to me," Kakarrot snapped in a cruel tone Bulma was not used to. It jolted her back a step. "I know what he is capable of," he turned his back to his childhood love, his voice hinting at a knowledge that unnerved Bulma.

"Kakarrot," Bulma tried to sooth her tone. Walking in front of the man, she circled his cheek with her hand as she lowered his face to meet hers, "I am so glad you have returned to me. It is a dream I have long since believed could no longer come true. So let us not dwell on the past, but look to the future, to our future, together." She lowered his face to press her lips to his forehead. It was only after she made the gesture that she realized how impersonal it was.

However, Kakarrot did not seem to notice as he pulled away from her, taking her arms and guiding her to a seat next to him. "You are right," he helped her to sit beside him. "We should instead be getting caught up," he reminded, and they did. As if they had not been separated for two years, they spent hours together, simply reminiscing like two old friends. Friends, which Bulma failed to acknowledge, whose spark was not what it once was.

She was late, two hours late. It was not the first time she had been tardy arriving to her lessons, but never this length of time. With an angered sigh, Vegeta placed the sword he had been unenthusiastically practicing with back on its alter. After pulling his shirt back on, he exited the training facility with the very specific purpose of finding out exactly why his wife had chosen to renege on her promise to keep their regular training appointment. Not, of course, that he doubted where she was, or more specifically, whom she was with. In fact he was half tempted to go straight to Kakarrot's chambers with every expectation of finding her there.

The two of them had been so bold as to jointly send, via servants, their apologies for not being able to make dinner; Bulma complaining of a slight headache and Kakarrot saying he was exhausted from travel. They were humiliatingly absurd excuses that had caused a long moment of universal recognition and, even worse, pity from the few elites that regularly dined with him. It had almost been enough for Vegeta to storm out of the dining hall to track the two of them down, but he would not allow himself to appear so pathetic. He made a crude joke about the two, as if he was immune to their disrespectful actions, but he was not. He was angry and he had several choice words to lay on his adulterous wife when she arrived to train, fool that he was to believe she still would.

Arriving outside of his wife's chambers, he pounded on the door three loud times. As angry as he was, he did not want to make a scene, and bring any more undo attention to them than she already had. When there was no response, he pounded three more solid times; that was when he heard her. It was a soft sound, no more than her light feet padding across the stone floor. He heard the lock on her door unbolt and then the sound of her voice preceded his visual of her.

"Come on now, you have to let me get some sleep—" Her eyes finally landed on her visitor and she realized it was not whom she had been expecting. Vegeta's chest immediately tightened. Her eyes were glowing, no doubt from lingering excitement over his unworthy brother. The white dressing gown she wore only made her radiant form appear more angelic. She never once looked this excited to see him. "Vegeta," she whispered his name, thoroughly surprised, "I'm sorry, I thought you were-"

"Kakarrot, yes, I gathered as much." Vegeta walked past his wife to secure his access to her room. Once he was a few steps away from her, he heard the door close behind him. "You missed dinner."

"I am sorry," she stuttered briefly as she began her excuse, "Kakarrot and I just became so caught up in reminiscing, we forgot what time it was and—"

"Abandoned your obligations," Vegeta cut to the chase. "However, that does not explain why you failed to join me for our training session."

Her eyes sped open and closed, before she frowned apologetically. "I am sorry, I forgot." Of course she forgot; she was too wrapped up in her recent streak of luck to care. "We spent hours talking. It was just like old times." She seemed intent on offering him details he did not want. Vegeta contemplated simply leaving. "He seemed a little different though." The slight change in her intonation kept Vegeta from retreating. Walking over to the windowsill, Bulma took a seat upon it. Tucking her legs against her chest, she confessed, "He seemed distant at times, but I suppose that should be expected after all he has gone through."

Vegeta followed her to the sill. Taking what little space was left, he sat next to her feet. "He still loves you." It was a statement of a fact Vegeta anticipated being true, which was why he was startled by her response.

"He says he does." The uncertainty in her voice was duly noted by Vegeta. Not saying he does, she failed to be so direct, just implying Kakarrot merely claims so.

"Do you not believe him?" Vegeta begged the question. All of the vivacity had disappeared from his wife's face. "No, I am certain he would not lie to me. I suppose I am just somewhat afraid of facing reality. I fear waking tomorrow to find this is all a dream."

"You are that content," Vegeta barely whispered it, his eyes no longer focused on Bulma. He was thinking about the exit again.

"You know this is what I have always wanted, a real marriage to a man who loves me." Vegeta twisted his head to see hers supported by the window. It was odd how her demeanor continued to diminish.

"That is not an answer," Vegeta dropped one of his hands to rest next to him on the sill; it made contact with her foot before he quickly snapped it back in immediate displeasure. "For fuck's sake, woman, you could have died yesterday of pneumonia and here I find you freezing yet another night in a row." Invoking a startled gasp, Vegeta reached out to pull his chilled wife into his arms. Damning the consequences of such a liberty, he carried her delicate figure towards the fireplace in her room. Lowering them to the hearth, he rested her between his legs, bending one to support her back as the other one stretched out comfortably underneath her knees. Her head fell against his chest as his hands roamed up and down her arms, creating a warming friction.

"I do not feel that cold," Bulma scolded as she attempted to bat his hands away. Vegeta would have none of it.

"You are no use to me dead, woman. If you will not take better care of yourself, then I will have to step up to the challenge." This time Bulma laughed, an honest laugh, as she slowly began to relax against him.

"So what will you do, after the war is over and our marriage is annulled? Will you remarry?" The question startled him, especially considering how blasé she sounded about the matter.

"Not likely. You have given me my fair share of marriage," Vegeta snapped mockingly. The woman in his arms shook her head as she twisted it to face his.

"Do not be like that. You do not want to be alone for the rest of your life. You must want companionship? love?" Vegeta scoffed. At one time he might have believed in the possibility, with the appropriate woman, but Vegeta had long since been assured of his immunity to the emotion.

"You of all people should know that I do not believe in love, thus marriage for me would be nothing short of an inconvenience."

"Like I am?" Her tone was emotionless again. It made his blood run cold. "I suppose you are right. But who knows, maybe one day you will find someone you might grow to care about. You could be happy."

"No, I couldn't," Vegeta spoke from his gut before he allowed his mind a moment to consider what he was saying, "You should know better, woman. I would never settle for a tame relationship based on platonic tolerance."

"Why?" Bulma raised a brow, questioning his declaration. "I would give anything to have someone to share my life with. Even if those feelings do not run much deeper than that of friendship, they can provide happiness." Her statement sounded almost desperate at the end, causing Vegeta to conclude that she was not speaking generally. Was his young wife making her rekindled love affair appear to be more than it truly was?

"You should marry a man who would sell his soul to any evil just for the chance to have one night with you in his bed, just one night to see you look upon him as if he was the only man in the world who would ever experience your love and admiration. That, Bulma, is passion, an essential no unarranged marriage should be without. To settle for less would be to cheat yourself out of more years than this war already has. I would not want to see you do that, not even for my brother."

The warmth that was resting on his chest suddenly disappeared and Vegeta found himself face to face with a pair of stunned crystal blue eyes. "I—I was not talking about myself and Kakarrot," Bulma rushed to insist, "I was asking for you not—"

"How many years have we been married?" Vegeta ran his fingers through his wife's hair; tucking some behind her ear, he had to repeat his question before she finally answered.

"You know it's been almost two years to the day." The day after this one in fact, he had thoughtlessly realized it after he had made the plans for the celebration to recognize his brother's return to the living and his wife's return from captivity. Although, perhaps it was poetic, they could solidify the end of their marriage on the same cursed day they began it.

"And in those two years," he used one palm to stroke her soft hair as the other unthreateningly caressed her legs from knee to ankle. "How many times have you allowed my lips to touch yours?"

Her back arched as he slid the hand from her head down her spine. Her eyelids began to fall as she admitted, "You have kept your promise for a chaste marriage. We have never—not even—no, never." He may have put his lips on other places, their sparring match a few months ago came to mind, but she had not allowed him to touch her lips. Not even on their wedding day did she respect him with even so much as a light brush of her rose petal softness. He would change that before this night ended.

"Will you still reject me, if I attempted to kiss you now?" Her hand found his chest and slowly began to slide over his pectoral muscles, inside his shirt, as if searching for warmth. Her second hand reached for his cheek and before either knew what was happening, her lips were merely inches from his.

"We—we shouldn't," her conscience spoke, yet her body failed to move.

"The hell we shouldn't," Vegeta closed the gap, flipping her beneath him, pressing her flush against him. His lips were next to her ear, waiting for her permission. "Just say yes," he nearly begged as he bit her earlobe.

"No more than a kiss," she finally conceded. Vegeta knew he had won.

"No more than what you ask," he technically agreed as he moved his lips closer to hers. "Let me hear it. Ask me to break your rule."

"Yes," was all she had time to whisper before he pressed his mouth to hers. Immediately parting her lips to welcome his invasion, she lifted her hands to lace them through his wild mane, pulling him closer to her body.

Vegeta was certain for a good minute that he was dreaming, but as he knotted his fingers through her wavy tresses and heard the all too real sound of his name being moaned, he knew this was no dream. "Vegeta," she whispered as they trembled against one another upon the bearskin that rested in front of the fireplace. Sliding his hands down the side of his wife's body, Vegeta momentarily cupped her rear before grasping the hem of her gown, slowly pushing it up, unveiling more and more skin to his naked touch.

"No," Bulma gasped suddenly, pushing herself from under her husband. "What are we doing?" she asked to no one in particular as she straightened herself out. "We can not do this."

Growling, Vegeta's eyes flew open. Sitting straight up, he watched Bulma neaten her gown in a mad haste, "Why the hell not?" He had never felt so irate in all his life. He did not doubt she wanted him; her refusal was merely a pathetic attempt to protect herself from the inevitable.

"Because there are consequences to our actions," she said a little more cruelly than expected.

Slamming his hand on the ground beside him, Vegeta pushed himself to his feet. "There are also benefits, but if you are too cowardly to reach out for them, then that is your loss." This time when he eyed the door, he had every intention to leave without turning back.

"Vegeta!" he heard her follow after him. "Vegeta, wait." The fingers of one hand circled his bicep as the other pressed to the door to keep it closed. "Look, I am sorry. It's just that…"

He finally turned around as she paused. Already believing he knew what she was going to say, he encouraged, "just what?"

"I was awake last night when you said that you believed you might have been able to make me happy if I had given you the chance." Vegeta's assumption had been wrong.

"You were awake?" he choked out, suddenly feeling completely violated even though it was not a justifiable feeling. "Why the hell didn't you say anything?!"

"I did not know what to say," she confessed exasperatedly before calming her voice. "In two years of living with you, you had never been as soft spoken with me as you were the other evening; and, well, if felt nice. I thought if you knew I was awake, you would have stopped."

"Unbelievable," He mumbled under his breath as he turned away from her, trying to compose himself as he tried to make sense of what she was telling him.

"Did you mean it?"

Such a simple question, but damn if it was not a loaded one; how the hell did he answer that? It was no longer relevant. They would soon be parted now that Kakarrot was alive. "You are not suggesting that you would wish to stay with me even now that Kakarrot is back in your life?" He was cruel in his delivery as he crossed his arms and turned to face her.

Her eyelids slid closed and then opened very slowly before she silently shook her head, "I do not know what I want, but I may sooner find some clarity if you would honestly admit what it is you want. Why did you kiss me just now?"

"You asked me to," the erroneous answer was not believed by either. "If anyone should be asking that question it is I of you. I mean for someone who 'hates' me it certainly did not seem that way a minute ago."

"I thought I told you last night, I do not hate you anymore. To be honest, I do not think I ever really did. I was just hurt and ashamed." She released a long sigh and then raised her head to meet the gaze of her husband once more, "Because I'm still attracted to you."

The stunning reality was without a doubt the last confession he would have anticipated hearing drop from her lips, but it felt good. His masculine ego was stroked, and something else, something deeper began to knot in the pit of his stomach as if he was a dying man being visited by an angel to impart to him the consoling news that he was to pass onto an eternity of bliss. "Why did you not say anything sooner?"

It suddenly irritated him to no end that while he had been sleeping for countless nights under lonely sheets, his wife was lying next door to him in the same restless slumber. How they could have eased each other's suffering! "I was still angry with you. And to be honest, we had been slowly reaching a state of peace between us. I did not want to ruin that by beginning a physical relationship." She paused, her lips turning up in a curious smirk, "What was your excuse?"

His first instinct was to deny any attraction to her. Then he realized that while though it might humor his pride, it would do nothing for his grossly neglected libido. And after years of abstinence, it was not a long battle to determine which would win out. "I had made a vow to you not to prompt any unwanted advances. You never offered me any signs of interest, so I kept to my promise."

Her lips trembled, the admission not all shocking to her, yet still holding some amount of pain in its authenticity. "You mean you kept your vow to atone for your past." It was not a question; merely what she believed to be an appropriate conclusion to his statement, "Out of guilt."

Vegeta's brows lowered noticeably, the change in subject clearly having caught him off guard. "I told you before, I cannot say I regret the night we shared, my only regret was the hurt I—"

"—that you caused me, I recall what you stated," her expression sunk once more. "But that is not enough," she whispered after a long pause. "I am not like you, Vegeta. Physical passion is just not enough for me. I want, no, I need to feel something much deeper than that." Their eyes locked, and for the first time in a long time, Vegeta finally understood what she would inevitably insist upon next. "I told you six years ago I was not going to settle for anything short of love." She raised her head, her expression one of determination, "I haven't changed my mind."

So it was settled. She would marry his brother. Vegeta was not surprised, upset or angered as he left her chambers. Plainly, he was not much of anything. He felt little as he walked the short distance to the next room. If anything, he should have felt better, because he was now guaranteed an imminent end to a marriage he never wanted.

But the sentiment was spoiled because he also had to come to grips with the fact that any fantasy he had involving the most intoxicating woman of his acquaintance would never come to fruition. And not because she was in love with another or because she had not forgive him, but because he could not offer her the one thing she needed most, love.

An optimistic emotion, but one he would never be capable of. Passion, yes. Possession, yes. Caring, perhaps for her. But love? Kakarrot was right for her. He could give her what she needed. Selfish as Vegeta was, he would not keep his wife tied to him, even though the thought was damn tempting.

Arriving in his chambers, Vegeta slammed and locked his door. Collapsed atop of his bed, his mind and body were plagued by images of what he almost had tonight. "For fuck's sake, woman, will you ever leave me in peace?" he wondered aloud as he slid his hands down to release the tension he could no longer bear. Closing his eyes, Vegeta recreated the flushed vision of his wife. "I wonder if you are doing the same, my queen." Throwing his head back in arrogant certainty, he began to extinguish the fire in his body as he imagined her next door to him doing the same.

Author's Note: Next chapter in a few…