Disclaimer: Though I haven't written a DBZ fanfic since 2000, all the old rules still apply. Written with deepest respect and admiration to Akira Toriyama and all those who were affiliated with him, in the creation of Dragon Ball Z, both manga and anime. Which would be theirs, not mine.

Vehicle

He wasn't her husband. They'd made no vows, had no ceremonies, but she used the term all the same. He'd disliked the word 'boyfriend,' saying that he was neither of those things to her and she didn't want to try the word "lover." Bulma knew Vegeta did not think of love as being at all related to sex and she didn't want to have him thinking she expected him to have feelings for her or anything crazy like that. Husband fit well enough anyway. They had a child and shared finances--her finances, thankyouverymuch—and when he felt like being planet-side, they lived together. As for when he didn't feel like being planet-side…well, she didn't want to know how many other exotic alien women he'd made similar arrangements with, though when she explained the husband and wife terms to him, she stressed exclusivity.

Bulma didn't want to know a lot of things about Vegeta's life. That's the way it works when you are sleeping with someone who is completely soulless. What Vegeta did when he wasn't with her was nothing she needed to know about and it bared no relevance on their relationship. She simply preferred to not think of the father of her child, her husband, as the remorseless murderer of billions and anyone who tried to explain to her that yes, he was, was soon frustrated by her blasé reaction.

Horrific past or no, when it all started between the two of them, he had been everything she was really looking for in a man all the same. Bulma had never really cared for the idea of getting married and having children. The whole institution was really engineered to place the woman in a submissive role to the man and once kids were in the picture, she could forget about doing anything she wanted or spending as much time in the lab as she would like. All it meant was throwing her own independence and self-sufficiency and talent out the window, so that she could depend on a man and the children could depend on her. Bulma had always known that Yamcha's dream was to get married someday. He liked the idea of having people depending on him and supporting him—probably because no one ever had before. Bulma had always figured she'd be able to talk him out of it over time and make him see that they could have a real partnership and real freedom her way. But the only thing her talks had accomplished was having him withdraw from her physically and emotionally. How strange it was, having this man who both vocally wanted to marry her and had cut himself off from her at the same time. How a single human being could be so contrary, she didn't know.

She had known all along that if she would just agree to marry him, Yamcha would turn back into her sweet guy. But Bulma couldn't agree to surrender her whole life and entire being to something she didn't even want for his sake.

So, Bulma thought about it long and hard for a few days and came the conclusion that what she really wanted was a man who wasn't going to get in her way if she wanted to sequester herself away in her lab for months on end or if she decided that it was absolutely imperative that she collect the Dragon Balls for a wish that was completely frivolous. Someone who only cared what she did as long as she was right in front of him.

Within a week of ending it with Yamcha, she realized that Vegeta was really the way to go. He had absolutely no reason to turn her down—she already gave him shelter, food, clothing, training equipment, so on and so forth—why not add herself to the whole Deluxe Package Deal that Capsule Corporation had given him when he agreed to move in? Neither of them would have to get all caught up in feelings and commitment and marriage and baby-making all the nonsense that ruined what was supposed to be the Love of a Lifetime between herself and Yamcha. They could both just get someone who wants you when you're were wanted and leaves you to your real passions the rest of the time.

Because she was a genius, the irony of the situation was not lost on Bulma when she found herself knocked-up by that sick son of a bitch.

The months went on and by this time, Bulma had found herself with a six-month-old baby and a "husband" who she had become reluctantly attached to, despite the fact that she really couldn't expect him to stick around the planet for very long once all the interesting enemies had been killed. Maybe if she was lucky, once this Cell business was over with, a few more of Goku's old enemies could jump out of the woodwork to give it one last hurrah. At the very least, that would spur Vegeta into another one of his Kakarrot-Is-Mine-Alone-To-Kill tangents and she could have him around for a bit longer.

Too bad those tangents were so damn annoying.

When Bulma walked into her bedroom, holding her son, she had been surprised to find Vegeta there, asleep in his stinking, beaten up armor. Due to the fact that he had come home, she assumed the fighting was over all ready. There was no way he would have returned while, somewhere out there, people were still trying to kill each other. He didn't wake up when she walked into the room—her tiny untrained human ki was far too insignificant to set off any of his internal warning bells. Actually, he'd made it known on numerous, vocal occasions that he usually couldn't even find her ki when he was looking for it, it was so pathetically small. This was usually meant to be taken as some sort of insult to her, but it only made him sound incompetent, so she let him bitch as much as he wanted. When she sat down on her side of the bed, however, he awoke. He cracked one eye open to look at her. His wife and child were never worth a stronger reaction to Vegeta. So, Bulma smiled at him and set her son on the bed next to his father. The two regarded each other for a moment and Trunks turned around and began crawling towards his mother.

"Guess he doesn't like you," she said. Her tone was playful, but part of her hoped the words stung anyway.

"Then he's got more sense than the other one," was the boy's father's reply.

"Grown-Up Future Trunks was really smart and total sweetheart," Bulma replied, grinning fondly at the thought of the man her baby was going to grow to become. Not that she had ever had any doubts that she'd be a fantastic mother, of course, but it was still nice to get that preview of how well she was going to do. She lifted the baby off the mattress. "Handsome, too." Unable to resist, she waggled her eyebrows at Vegeta. "Are we sure he's your child?"

He uncrossed his arms and re-crossed them the other way in annoyance. "We're sure." Too bad for him, Bulma though with triumph, that he can't be all snotty and cross his arms if he already sleeps with his arms crossed. That had been a habit of his she'd tried to break unsuccessfully before Trunks was born. After she'd had the baby, she'd lost interest in trying to teach him to cuddle and just let him be as closed off as he wanted. She had Trunks to cuddle with now.

"Careful," for the hell of it, Bulma bounced her baby on her lap a few times and gave him a quick squeeze. "You almost sounded proud," she winked. "Of someone other than youself, that is." After the words tumbled out of her mouth, Bulma realized for the first time that while Vegeta had shown absolutely no interest in their six-month-old, he'd spent a lot of time with their twenty-something. A lot more time than she had, even before factoring in that room on Kami's Lookout. Vegeta had taken the older Trunks in there for a year worth of father-son bonding. On the one hand, Bulma felt a little annoyed that for some version of her son, Vegeta was the more active parent—though she wouldn't dare say the better parent, considering his views on parenting probably included lots of beatings. On the other hand, what she knew of Saiyan culture boiled down to the importance of fighting and the importance of pride.

After all the training together, all the fighting side-by-side, all the wearing matching outfits lovingly crafted by none other than the amazing Bulma, was it really that far-fetched that Vegeta might be proud of his son? Might actually want his son around? True, it was a time-traveling adult he was attached to, if he was attached to anyone, but it still boded well for her infant. He just might get Daddy, sans opponents. She hoped, if this was going to be the case, that for his sake, her baby had inherited his daddy's love for getting the snot kicked out of him.

Back in the land of conversation, Vegeta had snorted. "The boy was a fool."

Hopes plummeting as quickly as they had risen, Bulma didn't register any significance in that Vegeta had used the past tense. "Yeah? What makes him so bad, huh? I think he's pretty great! He's been a Super Saiyan since we first met him, when he was 17! How old were you when you finally transformed? He killed Freeza, went back in time to save us and everyone we know, not to mention the entire planet and the human race! Then, even after he already warned us, he came back to help anyway! He didn't have to do that, he's just not so selfish that he's only going to do things if he has something to gain from it. He's culminated all this strength just to help people." Her expression turned sly. Time for the big guns. "He's just like Goku."

Bulma had been prepared to smirk at the sour expression that was forthcoming after he heard that comparison, but instead, Vegeta smirked and she scowled in frustration. "My point exactly."

She took each of Trunks pudgy wrists in one of her hands and clapped his together for the benefit of his father. "So you admit they are both better than you!"

Her husbands arms uncrossed and he flexed both of his own hands, somewhat threateningly, as though daring her to imagine balls of ki there. "Why must you continuously tread on such a fine line?"

Bulma flashed him a brilliant smile. "I thought that's what you like about me." Though she'd worded it like it was just a theory of hers, they both knew it was fact. Vegeta would have lost interest with and most likely killed a woman who showed him any fear long ago. And while it was true that she was scared the first time they'd met, on the planet Namek, but the time they'd been wished to Earth, that fear was forgotten. He'd had the chance to hurt her once before and he hadn't taken it. And it had been his choice not to. Bulma had never really thought she had anything to fear from Vegeta ever again after that omission, and while she was at it, she realized being terrified of Freeza or the androids or whatever didn't make any sense, either. They were going to kill her or not, their choice. They had the power, not her.

Refusing to go down that line, Vegeta chose to expound on his son's weakness. "The boy seeks power for the sake of others, this is true. He, like Kakarrot, chooses to defy Saiyan custom in this way. Perhaps he doesn't know the motivational worth of ambition for its own sake," he eyed Bulma carefully at this and she blushed. She invented for the sake of invention, was a scientist for the sake of science itself, often fully absorbed in goals that had spurred inside of her without any thought to how it would benefit anyone else. She didn't care how it would benefit anyone else. She wanted to make it because she just wanted it to exist.

Vegeta continued: "And he does not abandon the weak to their fate, though it is not his responsibility when others throw themselves into danger without the strength to get themselves out of it." Bulma looked away.

"Unlike Kakarrot," he persisted, "he doesn't care for the thrill of battle itself, so you shouldn't run away with the idea that they are too similar." Bulma returned her gaze to Vegeta. So he had been bothered by the comparison. Good.

"I'm still not seeing how any of this makes him a fool, Vegeta," Bulma interrupted with some impatience. She was beginning to think she should have timed this, though. Vegeta could usually easily make anything into a five minute speech if he wanted to.

"When a warrior's frame of mind is poisoned into fighting for the sake of his comrades, he runs the risk of lapsing into the belief that said comrades are fighting for his sake, as well."

Bulma sighed, dramatically. How boring all of this was. "And that means..?"

"It means he has taught himself to assume that someone will save him, when he cannot save himself."

Bulma dropped her baby's wrists—she'd ceased the clapping long ago, but had still be playing with him and waving his arms throughout the conversation—and hugged him suddenly. "Someone will," she whispered fiercely. "That's what we do for each other."

"Then tell me, Bulma," he drawled slowly, "where is he right now?" Normally, that he'd been able to so eloquently make his point without really saying what he meant plainly would have put a note of triumph in his voice. Right now, he didn't sound like anyone who had seen any successes in a long time, but that was lost once the meaning of his words had clicked in her mind.

"You bastard," she hissed, anger pooling in her gut, in her limbs, in her hands in her head oh god she could feel something on her face was it blood did it matter strange heaviness in her gut like someone dropped a medicine ball there how could he just sit there so calmly this whole time he was here to tell her that her son was dead right here my baby is right here in my arms where he's safe, "You fucking bastard," she sobbed, "Why didn't you fucking do anything?! Why are you just lying there rubbing it my face all afternoon?! You monster! Why are you here when you should be collecting the Dragon Balls and SAVING MY SON!?"

The infant was wailing. His mother couldn't hear him over her own screaming and his voice was muffled against her shoulder, anyway. He'd never been so afraid.

The father was shocked; both sounds had ceased to penetrate his mind. He wasn't like Bulma. The existence of Dragon Balls was still relatively new to him and he'd never actually used them himself. Her first reaction to the death of a loved one was to bring them back with the magic she'd been using half of her life. His first reaction—his only reaction—his only loved one—his son, the only person he'd ever loved—love he hadn't even realized was there until the boy was taken from him before he could blink—the rage, the emptiness, the failure, the utter worthlessness of his being—what twisted deity decided that he should live while his boy should die? Vegeta thought vengeance was all he could offer, but he failed at that, too. Had he even been thinking at the time? He didn't remember doing any thinking, only feeling, until Bulma had woken him up.

He had wanted…what had he wanted? He could barely remember. Feeling that strongly had exhausted him like nothing else ever had. What had he wanted? To never feel that sense of loss again. To go home and find his baby and hold on and never let go. He was the Prince of the Saiyans. He didn't lose. And he sure as hell didn't lose the same person twice.

Bulma had stopped shouting to take a breath, time that was long enough to finally notice the baby's distress.

Trunks had taken a long time to calm down, but he did. So tired from the crying and the stress, his mother had rocked him to sleep in her arms.

Somewhere in all of this, Vegeta had found the time to put his fist through the wall.

For the first time in what felt like a long time, Bulma looked at Vegeta and really saw him. He was kneeling on the bed now, his eyes wide and his mouth gaping, starring at her, as the shock of her words still hadn't worn off. His arm was oddly perpendicular to his body, embedded wrist deep into the wall and his arm had gone right through the wooden headboard.

"I'm sorry," she said softly. Vegeta thought he heard that, but it sounded so odd that he wasn't really sure. "The others are used to reviving people. They'll take care of it. They'll bring him back." Even as Bulma said that, she knew it wasn't really true. The Dragon could bring him back to life, of course, but not back to them, not for long. Trunks would have to go back to his own time and his own mother who was waiting there for him. "He'll go back home," she shrugged, trying to look nonchalant about the whole thing, "but we still have our son here with us."

Vegeta disentangled himself with the wall and settled back down on the bed, back against the headboard, arms folded across his chest, legs crossed delicately at the ankle. Bulma maneuvered herself beside him, sitting with her sleeping baby in her lap. She understood intimately at this point that the Prince of the Saiyans did not find loss acceptable, in any walk of life. Past failures were nothing more than a vehicle that created future victories. He would not lose the same person three times.

As for his wife, she refused to lose anyone, period.