Never Stops Hurting

It took weeks to convince them he wasn't going to fall apart.

For fuck's sake, he was not some fragile antique ready to shatter at the slightest provocation. He had weathered far worse storms than this, and his daughter was the one having the worst time of it. Not having ever died, or watched anyone close to her die, Bra could find no comfort, as he could, in the knowledge that his wife was safe and well, and probably raising hell up in heaven trying to keep herself busy. Yes, he missed her, and damned if it didn't feel like he had a hole in his chest sometimes (and he knew what he was talking about there), but he was not going to revert to his planet purging ways just because the woman was not there to babysit him.

On the day of the funeral he watched everyone's eyes flick to him first, despite the fact that Bra was sobbing uncontrollably next to him, and became increasingly annoyed. He could see it in their eyes, that subtle judgment, trying to discern how far down the path of madness he already was. He could no longer deny that their lack of faith in his sanity bothered him on a personal level, but the bulk of his anger was on Bra's behalf: his lovely, strong, innocent daughter who was still three years away from the earthling age of majority and who would need the comfort and strength of everyone who was currently shooting him sidelong looks. Only the bucket of bolts seemed capable of looking at him without pity or fear, and he appreciated the fact that her eyes landed on Bra first.

The only other adult female in their lives that he could imagine asking to help care for his daughter was Videl, and she was absorbed in her own recent grief at her father's death, three weeks prior. Videl, with her own daughter close to Bra's age, and her own experiences with losing a parent, was the perfect one to help her through this, but even Vegeta could tell that it was too soon for both families to seek solace in each other's grief.

He watched, dry eyed, as his wife's pyre burned, and wondered if the five stages of grief applied to him.

Chi-Chi took care of the after party, though it was the most solemn party Vegeta had ever attended. He left Bra with Eighteen and Marron and joined Krillin at the large window overlooking the city. Of all the woman's friends, Krillin was the one that annoyed him the least. He let Vegeta stand in silence for a good while, and then said simply,

"We all miss her too."

The glass in Vegeta's hand merely cracked, and he considered that a victory. Krillin didn't comment, and he considered that a kindness.

After everyone else had gone home, Chi-Chi approached him brusquely, shoving a capsule in his hands without so much as a by-your-leave.

"This is two weeks' worth of meals. I know you have those robots, but there's nothing like a home-cooked meal, and I won't let Bulma's family starve just because they're grieving. I'll have a talk with Videl about having Bra over sometime, and of course Trunks is welcome anytime." She gave him a piercing look. "So are you, you know," she added.

Vegeta was startled. He looked down at the capsule in his hand, which surely had to contain an insane amount of food. He'd never understood how the woman in front of him had been able to cook for three Saiyans, but to cook for three more... And her last words. Chi-Chi had mellowed somewhat over the years, but mellow on her was still fearsome. He had never gotten the impression that she liked him, though she had always been grateful for his presence in Goten's life during her husband's absence. But her invitation just now had been motivated by compassion, not obligation, and he was amazed. He folded his fingers around the capsule and gave her a nod. She gave him one in return, along with a pleased smile, and then she squeezed his bicep.

"It will get easier," she promised. He snorted, and the moment was broken. She collected Goku and left, and he carried his sleeping daughter up to her room. He spent his night on the roof, staring at the star Vegetasei had once orbited. It did get easier, he knew. But that didn't mean it ever stopped hurting.