Warriors Don't Cry
It was over.
Vegeta stared at the gaping wound in the earth—that bloody crevice where Cell had last stood before an explosion of blue light had consumed every last scrap of the monster's existence, wiping him out completely. It should have been a time of happiness, a time of celebration, but all Vegeta felt was a deep and overwhelming emptiness, like his heart had also been carved in two with that blast of blue light. There had been no victory for the prince of the Saiyans. The hand that had fired the energy had not belonged to him. No, it had come from a hybrid Saiyan, a mere child.
The prince gritted his teeth, clenching his hands into fists as bitterness and frustration pumped through his veins, though it was never enough to ease the aching hole in his chest. Piccolo had told him just before the others had left for the Lookout that it was brave what he had done, but Vegeta knew the truth. He hadn't been able to do a thing. He had fired a simple attack—one that was enough to distract Cell to allow Gohan to gain the advantage, but in the end it was still the boy, not Vegeta, who had dealt the punishing blow. It was the boy who had won, the boy who had got revenge for his family, the boy who deserved all the honour.
Vegeta uncurled his fingers and stared at his gloved hands—hands that trembled and seemed to not belong to him at all. These hands were useless to him now, for they had not been able to defeat the creature who had humiliated and mocked his Saiyan heritage. They had not been able to defend his body from the onslaught of pain he had suffered when Cell had retaliated to his attack.
They had not been able to save his son . . .
He closed his eyes, trying to block the memories, but there, tattooed on his closed eyelids, was the image of Trunks sprawled on the ground, his body contorted like a broken doll as crimson spilled from his lips. It was an image that haunted Vegeta: an image that refused to die, echoing his failure over and over again. Failure as a warrior. Failure as a father. Failure as a man.
Something warm rolled down his cheek, and he reached up with his gloved hand, surprised when he saw the drop of moisture glistening on his fingertip. He wanted to laugh—it had been so very long since he had cried; he'd almost forgot what it felt like—but the twisting in his stomach and the building hollowness in his chest stole any breath from his lungs, as well as his dark amusement along with it.
He placed his head in his hands, still hovering above the scarred earth as he wondered what was left for him. What was the point of his existence?
All his life he had fought to be the best warrior in the universe. He had wanted to regain the honour that had been stolen from his family after Frieza had killed them and then enslaved him. But what kind of warrior was he? It was a joke to even call himself that now. At every turn he had been bested: first by Frieza, then he was surpassed in power by Kakarot, a third class Saiyan, and then, finally, by his rival's son. A child.
"Why?" Vegeta whispered, anguish laced in every lilt of his voice. "Why was it never enough? I worked so hard, I gave my all into becoming the best, to being the strongest Saiyan warrior in the universe, and still it was never enough. You were always a step ahead of me, Kakarot—no matter how much I trained, no matter how much I pushed my body so that, just once, I could beat you."
His voice grew rougher as he spoke, raw with bitterness and emotion. It didn't even matter that there was no one to listen. The words kept tumbling out, like water streaming from a broken pipe.
"I worked so hard," he continued, fingernails digging into his palms. "I worked so damn hard. And for what? So you could sacrifice yourself to defeat Cell, taking with you any chance I had of proving my worth as a warrior and regaining my honour?" He shook his head, glaring through burning eyes at the sky above him. "Damn it, Kakarot, why did you do it?"
He just couldn't understand. Why had Kakarot sacrificed himself like that? Was it giving up? Was it a sign of weakness? Or had his rival simply surpassed him yet again, showing him what a true warrior was really all about?
"You walked so fearlessly towards your death," Vegeta said softly, head upturned to the heavens. "But I—" he clenched his jaw, swallowing back his hurt and confusion. "I just watched. I did nothing, just like I could do nothing to protect my son. Like a mere spectator, I watched you both die, and then I was forced to watch as your son—a child—took down the monster that I could not."
It was the ultimate humiliation, and he didn't know where it left him. He could not forgive himself for his inaction or his weakness. This was one failure too many.
"I am no warrior," Vegeta said, closing his eyes in shame. "My honour is gone, my strength worth nothing. I will not fight again."
Without a word, he turned and headed in the direction of Capsule Corporation, putting as much distance between himself and the site of his humiliation as possible. And in the silence of his journey, he locked all his dreams of grandeur and honour away in a tiny box in his heart and let it drop into the abyss that had been carved deep within him.
Bruised and broken, it was almost dark by the time Vegeta got back to the large dome that had been his home for the past three years. He landed on the grass clearing near the back house, hoping to slip inside unnoticed to avoid any unwanted questions, but even as he reached out to open the door, he found himself hesitating. All the people who had shown even the smallest sense of genuine affection for him were inside that house, but did he really want to stay with them?
He had come back here because it was routine, because it was what he had been doing for years. Though not married or even in a solid relationship with Bulma, he'd had a child with her, and in that she had invited him to remain at her home. So he had stayed, taking advantage of the Briefs' hospitality and utilities as he trained for the Androids, because it was easier that way and they had expected nothing from him in return. But now that his desire to fight was gone; now that he was so lost to his own sense of worthlessness and shame, he suddenly felt the urge to escape from it all. Everything on this planet was just a reminder of his failure, and he could not bear to look at any of it a moment longer.
A vision of blue eyes and a bright smile swam before his mind, but he banished it immediately. He'd already seen today what happened when he allowed himself to care for another person. His son had died, and he'd been helpless to stop it. He couldn't bear it, couldn't even begin to comprehend what he might feel should he see the same thing happen to her. He already felt sick at the thought that once, out of his own stupid thoughtlessness and thirst for battle, he had almost let her and their infant son die because he had been too absorbed with beating the Androids to notice that her airship had been critically hit.
Another moment of inaction. Another thing to regret.
Vegeta leant against the wall, burying his face into his arm. "I have to go," he said firmly, as if trying to convince himself of his own words. "It's the only way."
The spaceship her father had built was only a few metres away from him. He could just get in and set the coordinates to some random planet in space, and then—
Nothing. He didn't know what to do or where he would go. His future had become blurred: a great mass of nothingness that could not be unravelled, like an unwoven tapestry that has had all its threads tangled to the point where no picture can be made. Everything that had anchored him to life, everything that had ever made him who he was—it was all gone, snatched from his heart as he had watched Kakarot's son defeat Cell, the last of a long line of humiliations for the prince of the Saiyans.
No, he could not stay on Earth. He would have to face the void, and yet he remained where he was, frozen in his indecision. There were tiny strings keeping him bonded to this planet: strings that connected to a woman with blue eyes and a bright smile, as well as the infant with the tuft of lavender hair. He would have to cut those strings if he were to leave, but separating himself from them seemed strangely difficult now that he actually considered the matter.
Half an hour later, he was standing outside the open door to the spaceship, preparing to leave, when he sensed a familiar ki come up behind him.
It was not a question; she had been expecting something like this to happen.
Vegeta turned, meeting her large blue eyes, so vivid in their colour, so warm in their intensity. She really was beautiful, not that he had ever told her as much in so many words. He'd preferred to let his actions do the talking, if only for a few nights of passion; he'd been too much of a warrior and a natural loner to allow her any closer than that.
"There's nothing for me here," he said quietly, turning his back on her.
"Is that really what you think?"
Vegeta said nothing.
Bulma exhaled loudly, and he knew by the quality of that sigh that she was holding back a hundred words of accusation and frustration, all of which she also knew would not move him an inch. He almost smiled at the thought, knowing how difficult she found it to restrain her temper, but the expression never quite made it to his face. Instead, he felt a sharp stab in his chest, directly in the spot where he had previously felt that all-consuming emptiness.
"Why now, Vegeta?" she asked, sounding suddenly very tired. "At least answer me that."
Still with his back to her, he lowered his head in shame as the memories washed over him.
"I could not defeat Cell," he responded in a voice without emotion. "Even a child—not even a full-blooded Saiyan—proved himself stronger than me today."
"Vegeta . . ."
His name was like a sigh on her lips, and in that one word he knew there was no need for him to say anything further. She knew him enough to understand how much his pride and honour would have been wounded, so it was no surprise when she closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around him from behind, trying to give him comfort in the only way she knew how. His body tensed, instinctively resisting any signs of physical affection, but Bulma only embraced him harder, resting her chin on his shoulder as she leaned closer and planted a soft kiss on the base of his neck.
"Please, don't go," she whispered, still clutching him close.
He closed his eyes, aware of the softness of her body pressed against his back, and the faint but familiar scent that surrounded him—a scent he had come to associate only with her. It seemed like so long ago that they had been close like this, and it was a shock to realise just how much he had missed it. Her.
The stabbing in his chest became suddenly sharper, and he twisted in her arms, gently disengaging her hold so he could turn to face her. She stared at him through those big blue eyes—eyes that pleaded for him not to go—and he again felt a confused sense of wonder at how easily and openly she cared for him, even after everything he had done and failed to do.
"I told you that there is nothing here for me now," he responded, yet even he could hear the indecision in his voice.
Bulma placed her hand against his cheek, tilting his face down towards hers so they were at eye-level. "You have me."
His heart seemed to still in that moment—no longer sinking into an abyss of emptiness, no longer subject to the ruthless stabbing of his mind's war with his emotions. All was at peace, as if the battered and bruised organ had finally found a purpose to beat once more.
Not giving him a chance to respond, Bulma closed the last few inches between them and pressed her lips firmly against his, and her free hand came to rest lightly on his shoulder. It was a chaste kiss—certainly the most innocent they had ever shared—but he could feel the emotion behind it, and he was surprised by its depth.
"Please stay," she begged, pulling back from his lips just enough to meet his eyes. "I need you, Vegeta. Your son needs you. Is that not enough?"
He stared down at Bulma—at the woman he had never wanted to love, and, through her, the family he had never cared to own.
This could be your life, a voice whispered from deep inside him—a voice that seemed to arise from that gaping wound Cell had created in his chest. "Make her your anchor, make your family your anchor, and you will have a second chance at life."
A frown creased his brow as he looked into her eyes—eyes that shed no tears yet still burned with love and desperation. They both knew that they had reached a crisis point and that, after this, there would be no turning back. But should he stay or leave?
I need you. Your son needs you. Is that not enough?
Bulma's words echoed in his ears, repeated to him through that distant voice in his heart.
Vegeta sighed softly and closed his eyes, resting his forehead against hers. "I don't know what to do," he finally admitted. "All my life I have worked towards being the greatest warrior in order to regain my family's honour. Today, I realised I will never be able to achieve that."
"Then stay with me," she answered, running a hand through his hair. "Stay with me and let's just forget about battles and revenge. Let's just try to live."
"Yes," she continued, pulling back to meet his eyes. "Live, Vegeta. Even Saiyan warriors have to do that sometimes."
"I'm not a warrior," he said bitterly, averting his face.
She guided his face back towards hers with her finger. "You're wrong about that. Maybe you didn't defeat Cell, and maybe Goku and Gohan did somehow surpass you in strength, but you were still out there, weren't you? You still fought." A sad smile touched her lips. "Can you really say it was just to prove yourself the strongest?"
"I let Trunks die."
The words escaped before he could stop them, raw and painful in their confession.
"No, you didn't," she said firmly, cradling his face in her hands. "Can you honestly tell me that you just stood there and did nothing?"
He stared hard at the ground. "It wasn't enough. I gave Cell everything I had, and it still wasn't enough."
"It was enough for me, and I'm sure it would have been enough for Trunks."
Vegeta glanced back at her in surprise, and the smile he saw on her face was as warm as it was beautiful.
"Stay with me, Vegeta," she said, meeting his eyes steadily. "Stay with your son. We are here for you and we want you in our lives." Her voice broke, and she dropped her gaze to his chest, hiding her face from view. "I want you in my life."
He could tell by the way her body trembled that she was crying, and he let out a small sigh and enfolded her in his arms.
"Foolish woman," he murmured caressingly. "You always did wear your heart on your sleeve."
A light slap on his chest was all he got in response, and the faintest of smiles curled his mouth as he stood with her in his arms, letting her lean against him. She really would never change. She'd always be stubborn, always be pushy and demanding, and always so damn emotional. But then, that was what he liked about her. She had strength, in her own way.
"Fine," he said roughly after a long moment of silence, still with her in his arms. "I'll stay."
He felt her smile against his neck, and she tightened her arms around him, holding him so close there seemed to be no separating them.
So I just finished watching the Cell Games and was struck by that last scene we see of Vegeta after the battle, to the point where I realised I had to write about it. Some of his dialogue in that initial scene (particularly his last words of never fighting again, etc) is paraphrased from the original anime, but the rest is my take on what might have happened when he returned to Bulma and her family.
I apologise now if there are typos, etc. I wrote this while half asleep, but I just had to get it out. If you point them out to me, I can go back and fix them when I'm more coherent. ^_^