notes: i was flying home from california today and nostalgia for this pairing came out of nowhere and punched me in the mouth. so i used the last hour or so of my flight to bang this little thing out. hope you enjoy!

It's all because of you.

She feels the subsequent protest through the bottom of her boot, the push of flesh an entreaty against the rubber sole she specifically designed for whatever terrain she might encounter on Namek. It's an interesting feeling, having someone so powerful at her mercy. Sure, she's cowed Goku and the other Zeta Fighters into doing whatever she wants through sheer obstinacy, but this is entirely different. This is power as she's never before known, was never meant to know, and it's beautiful in its wrongness. It's almost as if her blood were replaced, given a transfusion of liquid energy and raw, untapped potential.

Caught between her and the blue grass of another world, he struggles, but she has him pinned down, a butterfly on display. The sound of his slowly-collapsing trachea is the loveliest music she's ever heard. He gasps out something, perhaps a threat, perhaps a plea for mercy, but it's lost in the gargle of saliva and encroaching defeat.

It all spun into motion because of you, because of the fixed point you presented. How many worlds did you destroy? How many lives did you ruin?

His tail thrashes like an angry serpent, slamming into the ground and kicking up the oddly-colored dust. Up, down, up, down - it's a seesaw, cherry-bombing over and over until a crater begins to form, testament to a rage that has brought countless galaxies to their knees. She's not impressed.

So many fell at your feet. And to what end? What would you have done once there was nothing left to conquer?

She presses down and relishes the burn in her calf. His tail convulses, seizing with panic and desperation. It's gorgeous.

You feel no remorse for all you've taken, all you've tainted, do you? There's nothing there except entitlement. Astounding.

The rubber sole of her boot shifts and suddenly the space where the heel is grows heavy as a stiletto begins to form and elongate, sliding down slowly and bringing a death sentence with it.

I never thought I would say this after everything you put him through - what you put countless others through - but thank you. It was all because of you, and I have to thank you for it. Perhaps that will be your legacy.

The stiletto slams down and pierces flesh, severing the brainstem and covering her foot in tissue and sinew. The tail falls to the ground and writhes once before slowing, stilling.

It's too good of an end for you.

Bulma removes her foot from Frieza's throat and shakes the blood and ichor from the heel of her boot.

Or perhaps not.

Her right foot is tangled in the bed sheets when she sits up, and for a terrible moment she thinks it's part of an esophagus wrapped around her ankle. Heaving for air, she reaches up and presses the heel of her hand against her chest; her heart is pounding a tattoo against her ribcage, like she's running a marathon without hope of stopping.

"Fuck," Bulma whispers, shivering. The window's wide open, her curtains billowing in the night breeze that chills her sweat-slicked skin. Her hair is matted at the base of her neck and she shudders in discomfort, raking her fingers through it and forcing it to lay flat. She's never enjoyed that feeling, not even after some of her more memorable nights with Vegeta a couple of years ago. It'll need to be cut again.

It's been a long time since she's dreamt about anything other than the androids or Cell, but it's the first she's ever dreamt about Frieza in any capacity.

The feeling of righteousness she had felt with her foot piercing Frieza's throat is something she knows will stick with her for some time, because eww, but it's not the part of the dream she's fixated on. It's the other part she tries to reach out and recapture, just to examine it and find out why the hell she would ever feel the need to -

A low but piercing wail comes through on the baby monitor.

Exhaling sharply, she pulls her foot free and throws on a shirt over her naked chest. Normally, she wouldn't care about her lack of clothing, but Trunks - the other Trunks - is sleeping in one of the guest rooms. The last thing she needs is for him to walk out of the bathroom or be in the hallway at the wrong time. No sense in tempting fate, because her luck has never been good in that regard.

The hallway is clear, shrouded in darkness save for a tiny hall nightlight that casts shadows over the walls. After a night of alternating between celebration and mourning, the whole of Capsule Corporation is quiet, lost to the kind of slumber that's been a long time in coming. The weeks leading up to the Cell Games had been tense for her, filled with late nights in the labs just to have something to do. The possibility of losing one or more of her friends had been a constant weight, only added to by the terror of losing her son - no matter where or when he's from, he's her son - or what could have been another, just as devastating loss.

"But you didn't," she murmurs to herself, opening the door to Trunks's nursery. "You didn't lose him. You didn't lose either of them."

The loss of Goku would be unbearable if she didn't know for a fact she'd see him again. As if something as trivial as death could keep Son Goku down.

Trunks keens softly from his crib, his fists visible through the bars, waving in the air. She lifts him easily, a feat that won't be so effortless for much longer, and tucks his head against her neck. He immediately quiets in her embrace, whuffing a few times as if to make a point before falling into a light doze. She strokes the pads of her fingers down his back and whispers nonsense to him, sinking to sit on the floor, leaning against the crib.

Sometimes it floors her, leaves her absolutely stunned, that he's hers. This perfect, beautiful creature, with all his wonder and simple joy, is whole and real and carries the best of her. Her greatest invention.

She remembers the first couple of years of Gohan's life, how Chichi used to complain about the sheer amount of food he would eat, about his terrible twos and how a normal child couldn't possibly be as worse as her own. Bulma can't reconcile the problems Chichi used to report with the amazing little boy in her arms. There has never been anything as wonderful as the parcel she holds. He's a product of two worlds and will shoulder the legacy of both. She's already seen what one path yielded for Trunks Briefs, how it shaped him into the fine man he is now, but she's eager to see just how this new one - forged through careful planning and paved with the presence of the warriors who didn't perish - will pan out. She won't have to raise him alone.

It was all because of you, Frieza, and I have to thank you for it.

She clutches Trunks tighter and swallows down horrified nausea. God, she must be much less well-adjusted than she'd previously believed if she feels she owes anything to that monster. But unhappy a conclusion as it is, it's still a sort of truth.

Closing her eyes, she sighs and buries her nose into Trunks's soft, downy hair. He smells like baby shampoo and sunshine. Loosening her grip on him slightly, she sings to him every lullaby she was ever taught, just to have an excuse to keep holding him.

She's half-way through 'Moon, So Round and Yellow' before she realizes she and Trunks aren't alone.

She lifts her head and meets Vegeta's gaze head on. He's half-cast in darkness, the shadows playing up the regal contours of his face, dipping down to caress the high cheekbones and strong jaw she once took great pleasure in brushing with kisses and tongue. It's been nearly two years since she's tasted his skin, heard the rumbling-almost-purr her touch would elicit, and she misses those nights with an almost physical pain.

But that he's even here at all…

"It's over." She doesn't really expect him to answer, but if Vegeta is anything it's unpredictable.

"It's over," he agrees quietly, his voice smoke over broken glass, and even through the darkness she can see the exhaustion pulling at the corners of his eyes and mouth, the way he leans against the doorframe like it's the only thing holding him up.

She opens her mouth to tell him it's okay, to fill the ensuing silence with some kind of platitude he can brush away like an insect, irritating and hardly worth his time.

What comes out is, "I dreamt that I killed Frieza."

He hadn't been expecting that, had most likely been bracing himself to slap away any kind of comfort she might offer, and it shows on his face. He tilts his head slightly, surprised, and looks her over slowly as if trying to compare his two years-old knowledge of her body against what he sees now. His gaze on her is almost palpable. She shivers.

When he's had his fill of her, he moves quietly away from the door to where she sits. With a grunt, he slides down next to her, leaning back against Trunks's crib and closing his eyes. His breath leaves him in a low whoosh.


"'How'?" She whispers, incredulous. That's what he wants to know? "What a stupid thing to ask. Are you - Fine. I don't know about you, but it was a stressful few days and my brain decided to cope by comparing it to other stressful situations - "

"God, would you shut the fuck up?" Vegeta groans, still soft. "I meant how did you kill him."

Oh. "Oh." She shifts her hold on Trunks and brings her knees up. "I… I was stepping on his throat. Then kept going until I went straight through."

It brings a smirk to his face.

"He struggled." It's only half a question.

Bulma noses lightly at Trunks's hair again, inhaling. "Yes."

"He suffered."

She tries not to take much pride in it, but fails. "Like you wouldn't believe."

"Good," Vegeta says firmly. His eyes are still shut and he hasn't looked at her once since he sat, but the tension in his shoulders is starting to ebb. She hasn't seen him so relaxed since… since the last time they were together.

"But that wasn't… I thanked him. Right before I ended it, I thanked him."

His eyes fly open and fixate on her, narrowed into slits. "You what?"

Her arms tighten around Trunks again of their own volition, and she shrugs self-consciously under his scrutiny. Vegeta sees the world through two lenses: interesting, and enemy. Right now, she's not entirely sure under which category she falls.

"Look," she says as loudly as she can without disturbing Trunks, "it's not like I can control my dreams -"

Vegeta doesn't look impressed with her poor attempt at an explanation. "That you would even feel the need to thank -"

"Shut up, okay?" Trunks stirs for a moment, fingers curling into the collar of her shirt, and she feels the phantom brush of something downy encircling her wrist. She misses his little tail more than she probably ought; the doctor had removed it minutes after the birth, after they first placed him in her arms, before she could say anything to the contrary. Her little boy is missing the first tether to her outside of the womb, a part of him, a part of his father. "Without Frieza -"

"My planet would still exist," Vegeta grunts, turning his gaze from her again. "My people would still thrive. I would still be prince. King."

Bulma can't deny any of that, however, "you wouldn't be as strong as you are now, you know. You wouldn't be a super saiyan. You wouldn't - I get that you hate being constantly reminded of your losses by being stuck here, but no one's keeping you from leaving. We've got a dozen pods in holding right now, just ripe for the taking."

There is no response.

"You want to know why I thanked him?" She grits out, eyes burning, rage and frustration churning within her, strong enough to rival any saiyan. "Because without him, you never would've come to Earth. We never would have gone to Namek. Goku wouldn't have made the transformation; neither would you. I wouldn't have made any of the breakthroughs in technology that I have. I wouldn't have Trunks. I wouldn't have y -"

She holds Trunks closer to temper her trembling, and she lifts her eyes to find Vegeta watching her.

"You wouldn't have what…?"

Pursing her lips, she shakes her head. "My point is, Frieza was a monster, but he was the catalyst for so many good things. Without him, we wouldn't have all we do. I wouldn't have all I do. It's all thanks to him."

She counts the passing of moments with each soft exhale against her neck, the movement of small fingers on her, the minutiae of their child, until exhaustion finally washes over her. Breathing out slowly and stirring Trunks's hair, the smell of his shampoo, she slowly gets to her feet and turns to deposit Trunks back in his crib. He doesn't wake, not even at the feel of her fingertips on the swell of his cheek. So strong, yet so trusting, her boy. Their boy.

Her fingers brush the wall by the doorway when a tired, but strong - never not strong - voice stops her. "I didn't expect to leave the Cell Games."

She turns. Vegeta's eyes glitter at her from where he sits against the crib.

"I didn't expect to any of it. Of this." His mouth twists, distaste and confusion written in the dip of his top lip, a place her tongue used to frequent with great pleasure, and he turns his head to look at the far wall. "I've never… learned how to want for… certain things. Power and vengeance, those are baseline. Bred. Coded in the core of every saiyan, royal and low-born both. Servitude was taught, and at a price you will never understand. There are parts of me that were taken and will never be returned. Essential parts. More than the crown that would have been mine. More than the need to claim my birthright before some idiot on the lowest rung of the class ladder can. More than even the loss of my people. My father. There were things that were mine that he took. Wanting has never been my focus; taking has been the only course I've been made to follow. So this… I don't know how to want this."

It's easily the most he's ever said to her in one go, and it's definitely the longest he's ever spoken to her without insulting her. There are a million things to say to him, but all she seems to be able to dredge up is the need to kill Frieza again. Again, and again, and again, and she'll never tire of it. The chance to do so is long gone, but he'll lurk in her dreams and she'll be waiting.

What she says instead is, "hungry?"

Vegeta tilts his head, staring at her for a long moment. A smirk slowly spreads like a virus across his face "Not if you're cooking."

"Well, I'm not waking my mother up for you, your highness, so take it or leave it." Bulma moves into the hallway without waiting for an answer, but one comes. Naturally.

"I just survived one death sentence and now you're forcing me into another? You're a woman; aren't you supposed to be nurturing, supplicating my every whim, submitting to me as your superior?" He follows her down the stairs, silent as anything, but a solid presence at her back.

Frieza may have been the catalyst, but she's living the fallout. She'll take it from here, with or without thanks.


"I see," Vegeta grunts.

As if he's saying, perfect.