by Obsidian Blade

Hellfire, but the woman could rant for hours.

It was the end of the week, the day Vegeta had begrudgingly surrendered to 'family lunch' half a year before, and they had been eating for most of the afternoon. Roast beef, roast potatoes, roast squash, essentially roast anything his wife could put in the oven without thoroughly burning had been laid out and summarily consumed. Had she shut up throughout? He scoffed as he reached for his glass to wash down a dry mouthful of overcooked cow. What a ridiculous question.

He thought he had learned to tune out her particular frequency when she got like this – and the low burn in his muscles after a week of worthwhile training was soothing enough that he was in the right mindset to let her words part around him without eliciting a response – but there was a particular grate to her voice today that told him he'd probably hear her echoing in his goddamn dreams. It was no surprise the boy had pleaded homework as soon as his stomach was full.

'Vegeta,' she said sharply. Her chair legs screeched against the tile as she stood, and he flicked his gaze over the stacks of empty plates to find her glaring at him with her hands on her hips. 'Just what are you scoffing about, huh? Are my troubles too tiny and pathetic for your majesty to even listen to?'

He snorted. 'I've been listening, don't doubt it. No-one in a thirty mile circumference could avoid listening.'

The grate to her voice was relevant. She could be shrill, she could be piercing, she could be loud and, on the most pleasing of occasions, she could be husky, but it was rare the edge to her voice became quite so jagged. He frowned. He had heard her voice like this before.

'Oh, suck it up,' she said. 'Your ears aren't bleeding; you've got no grounds to complain.'

A typical barb, unusually eroded. She had sounded this way after he'd blown up that damned stadium. He regarded her steadily, polishing off the last of his food and pushing aside his plate. It marked the end of his easy cover for tolerating this time spent with her, and the irritable lines of her brow softened when he made no immediate move to depart. She slumped back into her seat and threw up her hands.

'There's just truth to it, you know, and I hate that.'

'Truth to what?'

She glared. 'You haven't been listening.'

He shrugged one shoulder.

'When we had that big meet-up – the one you skipped – I said Trunks was getting way too big for his boots, and Krillin or someone said he was probably mimicking. And I know they were joking, but the lot of them agreed that I'm vain. Conceited, even.'

Vegeta couldn't help it even if he'd wanted to; he barked out laughter. She crossed her arms over her chest, glaring.

'It hurt!'

'You're hurting, over that? You're the most narcissistic woman on this planet, why the hell would being called as much set you back at all.'

'I am not-'

'Oh yes you are, don't be so pointlessly self-deluding. You said yourself there's truth to it.'

'I said that so you could deny it!'

He laughed again as she seethed in her seat. She might be angry but her tactical error had clearly dawned on her, ushering blood into her cheeks. Trying to elicit the standard human response was always a worthless move. He pushed back his chair, still laughing.

'Woman, you kill me.'

He made three steps toward the door before she grabbed his arm. He didn't break his stride, but half-turned his head to glance back at her, smirking.

'You're not taking me seriously,' she said.

'You've not raised a serious matter.'

He shouldered open the door and walked through, leaving her just enough room to squeeze past alongside him.

'A slur on my character is a serious matter.'

'Oh, I see, so I should go beat your friends down for recognising the chief constituent of your personality.' He started up the stairs. Her hand slipped from his arm, and he added as an afterthought, 'Not that the call to violence isn't a pleasing one.'

Perhaps foolishly, he hadn't anticipated her fury, or her hurt.

'You think I'm founded on- on ego?'

He stopped halfway to the top and looked back at her. She bristled on the bottom step, fists clenched, blue eyes gleaming forebodingly. For all his building comfort around his little family, his hackles raised at the sight. If she cried, he was walking away, and she could simmer in whatever idiotic broth she was brewing for herself.

Bulma raised her hands and started counting things off on her fingers. 'I am beautiful, I am blindingly intelligent, I am tenacious and adventurous and giving – as you bloody well know, mister three-year-freeloader. I am-'

He crossed his arms. 'Listing all your favourite traits to prove you are not vain, if I'm not mistaken.'

Occasionally he would admit to himself that he loved her for her voice, but Vegeta derived immeasurable pleasure from seeing her struck dumb, not least because he knew he was the only one capable of rendering her speechless like this. She flapped her mouth wordlessly as he smirked down at her.

'And what have we here? Bulma Briefs without her pride: the mute, worthless, boring drudge. That's some fine acting, Bulma, practice has really paid off for you.'

'How could you say that?'

The hurt was out in full. Vegeta's smirk dropped and his posture straightened, his good humour slipping behind more defensible hauteur.

'I'm not vain; I'm not based on vanity; I'm a good person; do you hear me?'

His distaste flickered at her bizarre obsession with goodness, but he kept that to himself. He eyed her coldly. 'The two are not mutually exclusive, idiot woman.'

'Yes they are! Hello, conceit is a bad thing.'

'Is it, now. Then why have you never checked it in yourself? And why in hell's name are you consorting with me?'

She was silent, sullen, thinking, her eyes temporarily trained on the carpet. He frowned. He had no desire to let her come to a self-damning conclusion.

'Pride is strength,' he said. 'Pride is knowing your own damn worth. Your so-called conceit allows you to identify your skills, to capitalise on them. Do you want to be some meek, self-defacing, modest thing that takes no credit for their successes? That sort of pathetic specimen is nothing short of infuriating.'

His expression hardened as she looked up at him, that liquid gleam in her eyes transforming into the familiar flash of intelligence.

'What are you saying, Vegeta?' she said slowly.

She already knew. Her voice had gone through grating, piercing, shrill and loud – and now it had developed that ever-welcome huskiness. Her bursts of emotion always caved as fast as they bubbled up in the first place, and her genius was clearly back in control. He would have been pleased if he hadn't said quite so much a second before.

'That you're a short-sighted, idiot woman who buys into far many of this planet's worthless social constructs,' he said gruffly.

Her head tilted slightly to one side as she ascended the first step. 'I'm a "short-sighted, idiot woman" when I try to disown a quality you love about me, you mean,' she said, drawing nearer.

'I certainly did not say that,' he said, eyes locked on hers as she stopped on the stair below him, one hand reaching up to run her fingers over his forearm.

She gave a lazy, sultry, winner's smile, an arrogant smile, the sort he could hardly resist, and made no move to verbally correct him. Instead, her fingertips traced the lines of his muscles up his arm to his shoulder as she leaned up toward him. His hands went to her hips as her body pressed against his, her lips touching his throat, his jaw, his mouth. Her free hand slipped under his shirt and he guided them down so that she was straddling him as he rested his weight on the steps. She gave the slightest moan as his fingers skimmed the curve of her hip and sank lower. He smirked beneath her kiss.

'See now,' he said against her lips, 'pride has the best rewards.'

Fanfictiondotnet keeps eating the spaces after italicised words, so I apologise if I've thrown any mutant jumbles of letters into anyone's day. This was produced over the course of a week, with a new chapter topic introduced each day, anyhow, so if the story jumps around a bit... it's because my attempts at editing it into coherency didn't quite go as planned. It may be better to think of it as a series of connected drabbles rather than a proper story, I dunno. Either way, here's hoping it's enjoyable scrawl!