She hadn't made it home in time for dinner.
The morning of May 12, she had taken her son to the battlefield to sneak a peak at the androids that had been at the forefront of her mind for three years. It seemed only natural, and if she hadn't come she couldn't have identified that Android 20 was actually Dr. Gero. She'd even made a remote device to help save the planet, not that they'd used it, and had helped repair Android 16, which resulted in his sacrifice meaning nothing.
Tiredly, she sighed and wiped away the remnants of the day's makeup with a warm washcloth.
It had only been two weeks, and yet it seemed so long ago that her hovercar had blown up. And, true to his word, Vegeta had not protected her. What bothered her most was that he hadn't even batted an eye when his own son was in danger.
It had been their son from the future that had saved them, and at that thought her anger at Vegeta evaporated. Future Trunks had restored so much faith in herself as a mother. He really was a great kid.
She pulled the washcloth away from her face and glanced at her reflection, jumping as she noticed the figure standing in the doorway, watching her with a dark, pensive expression. His arms were crossed over his chest, and his eyes met hers through the glass.
"Vegeta," she breathed, turning to face him.
She'd seen him often over the course of the past two weeks, but only in short intervals as he'd blast off at any chance to train or fight, not that she expected otherwise. When their friends had taken refuge at Capsule Corps to await the announcement of the Cell Games he'd even stayed in her bed, but he'd been edgy with so many of Earth's fighters around and it made sense that she was something familiar, something sane.
Briefly, she wondered if he'd thought of her as often as she had of him these past two weeks. It couldn't be too bizarre a thought; after all, what had been two weeks for her had been over two years for him thanks to his stays in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber.
"Trunks is here," she said, shaking the silly thought out of her mind. It didn't matter how often Vegeta thought of her. He was here now, and he appeared to be weighing his options. What those options were she hadn't a clue, so she continued with a light smile. "He's going to stay the night and leave tomorrow after he's gotten some rest."
He nodded, but had felt the boy's energy roaming the hallways downstairs so there was really no need to acknowledge her words. Bulma once again turned to face the sink and continued washing her face, and he turned away from her. Hovering by the doorway, he shifted slightly and cast one last glance at the mirror before releasing a short, breathy exhale and leaving the bathroom with a slam of the door. Despite that it had been open when he'd entered.
"Vegeta," she managed through ground teeth. "I don't care. Everyone is wearing one, and so are you, okay?"
"Hn," he grunted, leaning away from the woman and the black armband she was wielding. It was the morning of May 27, and his son from the future was leaving for his timeline. Which meant Capsule Corporation was crawling with babbling Earthlings. His lips pulled into a snarl, and Bulma sighed.
"I thought you respected Goku," she coaxed, batting her blue eyes up at him. His scowl only intensified.
She'd explained to him that the wearing of a black armband signified mourning, that the wearer was recognizing the commemoration of a fallen comrade. Wearing something so silly was one thing, but wearing it to blend in with Kakarot's idiot friends was another thing entirely.
Bulma frowned, and shrugged her own band on her arm. "Your son is wearing one."
"I don't care."
"But Vegeta," she looked crestfallen, "it's a custom."
His arms crossed against his chest and his pointy, aristocratic nose turned upwards. "It isn't a Saiyan custom."
"Ug, fine!" She shouted with a roll of her eyes, and Vegeta watched as she tossed the sacred, precious armband into the air before turning on her heel and leaving the room.
Staring down at the armband lying on the floor, he grunted before following the woman into the hallway.
He almost wished he'd taken a few moments to pick up the band and place it on his arm, if only to give him an extra second or two away from the commotion outside. The lecherous old man was there, and had abandoned his usual floral shirt in favor of a red suit. Still, he was making lewd comments about Bulma's tits to the short, pink pig. Vegeta's teeth gnashed. Shifting his gaze to where Krillin, Gohan, and Yamcha were reminiscing about Goku as the blue, floating cat hovered nearby only made his teeth grind more violently. It was even more deplorable than the former, and he felt a vein in his forehead throb painfully as he crossed the lawn and took shelter beneath the shade of a tree.
Sensing his presence, the group of warriors stopped laughing and glanced in his direction. It was Krillin whose eyes shifted from the tall, scar-faced warrior at his left to the stoic prince across the lawn, and grinned.
"Hey Gohan," he said under his breath, "Notice that Yamcha and Vegeta are wearing the same shirt?"
The half-Saiyan stopped straightening his tie to blink at Krillin. "Huh?" Then, glancing between the pair of warriors, he laughed. "Oh, wow, you're right. Hey Yamcha," he said, his voice louder as Krillin grinned at his side. "You and Vegeta match."
Yamcha laughed as well, while Vegeta's arms tightened across his chest and a crimson blush stained his cheeks. "Hn," he grumbled, still in favor of the long-sleeved teal shirt than the horrendous pink button up.
The others joined in the laughter until Bulma and her mother opened the back door and stepped outside, along with both Trunks. The younger giggling in his grandmother's arms, while the older strolled alongside his mother as she informed him that the time machine was good to go.
Clasping one of his hands in both of hers, Bulma fought off the tears stinging her eyes. It was silly to mourn the loss of her son when he sat gargling in her mother's arms, but it wasn't the same. "I'm really proud of you, son."
The polite young boy smiled and blushed slightly. "Thanks mom."
"Be careful," she continued, returning his smile as she gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
He nodded and gave a soft, "Right."
Turning from his mother, Trunks made his way towards his friends, his heart aching at the knowledge that he wouldn't see the smiling of faces of Gohan and Krillin when he crossed back over. From the corner of his eye, he saw his father surveying him, and paused.
While his expression remained stony, Vegeta lifted his arm and motioned a quick, two-fingered wave. Trunks smirked and returned the sign of respect.
His mother called him from the other side of the yard while his friends wished him well. With a heavy sign, Trunks entered the time machine and prepared himself for the upcoming fight. He'd been born, and besides Goku everyone was alive. This timeline was safe now, but his own still needed him.
They watched the ship rise and disappear, and in the aftermath of his departure stood in silence as the breeze whipped at their hair and clothes.
Bulma continued to ward off the tears, and jumped slightly when she felt a large, warm hand on her shoulder. She turned to face the man at her right and smiled.
"He'll be safe," he said, glancing at the spot where the ship had disappeared. "Besides, he's still here."
She glanced towards her mom who was bouncing the chubby baby in her arms, and nodded. "I know. But I'll still miss him."
Yamcha nodded, his dark eyes meeting hers.
"I am sorry." She wasn't sure what she was sorry for, exactly, but she knew she'd hurt one of her best friends through the events of the last three years. And while she wouldn't change any of her decisions regarding Vegeta or their son, she didn't wish Yamcha unwell.
"You don't have to apologize." His features broke into a grin. "Besides, you think we're complicated? Krillin over there's got it bad for an android."
"Hey!" Krillin called, teetering between anger at having his secret declared so openly and the embarrassment of knowing that it was true.
"An android, hey?" Master Roshi leered. "She good lookin'?"
They broke into another fit of laughter, save Vegeta who was once again suffering from the pesky vein throbbing at his temple. He just wanted them gone so he could train in peace.
"I feel almost bad for laughing," Yamcha sighed, releasing Bulma's shoulder from his grasp and staring off into the distance.
"No way," Krillin shook his head as the laughter died and some of his friends looked rather guilty for being happy at such a time. "That's how Goku would have wanted it."
He stared down at the baby, his son, who was blinking up at him from his place inside the crib. Trunks had Bulma's coloring and his features, his strength but her heart.
Vegeta's features tightened, and Trunks continued to glare at him. It was strange to know that in each timeline their relationship had been the same. As though he were actually powerless against her. As if it were fate.
Except in the other timeline he'd died at the hands of the androids, and she'd survived, built a time machine and warned them. Worst of all, it had been the spawn of Kakarot that had trained his son, but not in this timeline.
"You let me and Trunks die."
Her voice interrupted his thoughts, and he turned from the scowling baby to his scowling mother standing in the doorway.
"You shouldn't have been there."
Bulma's eyes narrowed, but she knew he had a point. "You didn't even try to save us."
"I told you Bulma, I may have been fighting on your side, but I wasn't going to protect you."
"He's your son, your family," she said, taking a step towards him. Inside the crib, Trunks was nodding off to sleep despite the harsh voices filling the room. "There are things more significant than fighting, you know. Your family is more important than winning."
His grip tightened around the bars of the boy's crib. Between clinched teeth, he managed, "I know that. Now."
Despite his obvious inner turmoil at the admittance, a smile pulled at her lips. She'd heard it in those words a poorly articulated, but definitely there, apology.
And he'd meant it. It had been after Kakarot sacrificed himself to destroy Cell, and had failed. Cell, the bastard, had tried to take Trunks' life with a cowardly blow, and he'd thought he'd succeeded. Vegeta had never wanted to destroy anything so thoroughly in his entire life. He'd had his ancestry mocked and his race scuffed at, his pride taken down a peg, but hadn't flown off the handle until he'd watched his son from the future laying broken, face up, eyes distant, coughing up blood. In that moment Vegeta knew he had no hope of winning, but he'd fought anyway.
Bulma smiled as she watched the emotions play across Vegeta's features as his eyes remained on the steady rise and fall of their son's breathing from the crib. Yamcha had told her that afternoon that he was staring to understand that Vegeta was not all that bad a guy. She'd known it all along, but it was nice to see that he was beginning to outwardly act upon some of his fairer impulses. He'd always be Vegeta of course, but he could be Vegeta who was a father and a… well, she wasn't sure what she was to him, but his being a father was a start.
Vegeta closed his eyes, the image of Trunks asleep faded to the smiling boy from the future who'd so desperately wanted his respect. It shifted to Kakarot, and his grip on the crib tightened once again.
He was exhausted. He'd gone at everything passionately: he'd worked to defeat Frieza, to be stronger than the androids, Kakarot, and yet all his hard work fell short. Each time. He wouldn't give up, but he was far too weary continue at his old pace.
Goku had left, left him with nothing, and in his departure it was his son, Gohan, who had saved them all in his place. And the most maddening part was that now he'd never get a chance to prove himself.
Once again, the woman interrupted his thoughts. "You can stay."
He smirked and turned to face her. "You're not going to be able to hold Kakarot's power over my head for your protection any more."
"And you're not going to get away with everything because we need your help with the androids," she paused, and a smile lit her features. "But I had hoped we wouldn't need those excuses any more."
"I will stay," he nodded, his eyes darting down to the sleeping boy in the crib. "For him." He cast her a sidelong glance, and neither was sure if perhaps he meant her, too. "He requires proper training."
"Yes," she watched as Vegeta released the crib from his grip. "It's been a long couple of days; let's get some sleep."
He didn't say anything, he didn't nod or grunt in affirmation, but he followed her across the hall to their room and shut the door behind them. Nearly as soon as he was under the covers, he'd fallen asleep. Bulma smiled as she changed into her pajamas and joined him beneath the covers.
It would be seven years before he openly admitted to loving her, seven years until he went out of his way to sacrifice himself for his family's protection, and seven years until he'd once again have his chance to go against Kakarot. But in those seven years, he'd continue to live. Bulma rested her head against his chest and closed her eyes. For each of them, it was enough.
I would like to thank everyone who gave reading this story a chance. I know how many 3-year stories are out there, so a big hug to everyone who gave my take a chance and stuck with me through the end.
I'd like to extend a special thanks to everyone that took the time to review. I always appreciated the feedback, and I hope to hear from you all again soon. :D