This is set some years after the Buu saga. When a new demon, Assur, attacks the Earth, Vegeta, Goku, and the Z-fighters are - as always - determined to stop him at all cost. A few days after the hard-won battle, Vegeta is still recovering and is in quite some pain when he wakes up to find a certain half-saiyan cutie-pie overly adorably worrying about him. This is a short story about a badly injured Vegeta playing it tough for his pride and his four-year-old daughter, Bra.
Disclaimer: I don't own DBZ or any of the characters.
A huge thank you goes to RedViolett for the wonderful story cover she drew for me! You can check her work on Tumblr or Devianart, she uses the same username, you'll find loads of amazing art on her accounts. She's an incredibly talented drawer and writer and if you're lucky enough to understand german, you can read her fanfics too - really amazing work! - Herzlichen Dank, Red!
- To Melt a Warrior's Heart -
The first thing Vegeta took in as his eyes cracked opened was the dim light coming from the hallway. It only served to worsen the splintering headache he had just woken up to.
He closed his eyes again with a grunt and brought a hand to his forehead, gently covering his temples.
He didn't know how long had passed since the battle, but he was far from being healed. Waves of pain rushed through his body with shattering brutality and he found it hard to keep his mind from wondering whether his bones and muscles weren't being hammered to bits and pounded to pulp, right then and there, with every beat of his heart.
In an attempt to distract his mind, Vegeta opened his eyes once more to observe the surroundings, trying but failing to ignore the light.
It was the same bed in the improvised but well-equipped hospital room at Capsule Corp that he was lying in and some sort of low chatter was slightly audible from behind the nursery's closed door. He tried to distinguish the voices, but the stabbing sensation throbbing against his ribcage and his still shaky grip on consciousness kept his mind from focusing on such fine details.
Vegeta raised the hand half-covering his eyes a few inches above his head to study the bandages. They were wrapped from above the wrist up to his knuckles.
He smirked. 'Pretty sleek,' he thought, noticing the resemblance to boxing bandages.
It shifted his thoughts to the battle and Vegeta felt immense pride to have fought Assur and, along with Kakarot, to have ultimately defeated the strongest warrior the universe had ever seen.
But he couldn't, for the life of him, remember what had happened after the battle. His only recollection was a hallucinating turmoil of bone-crunching pain, pieces of the fight flashing before his eyes at blinding speed, and shattered fragments of the hectic agitation around him - broken images and voices cracking in panic, which swirled and screeched and rang in the haze of mind-numbing agony.
He shook the memory away and curled his fingers tentatively into a fist, testing the state of his hand.
It had recovered well, given the damage sustained when the saiyan had held off Assur's final Hakai Chiru attack. It was hurting and was somewhat stiff, but at least half-way functional and bearable to Vegeta. Unlike his left shoulder, which had been lanced through in battle and was now putting him through hell.
The sickening image of the spike pit, created by Assur in the rocky soil of the battlefield, flashed before Vegeta's eyes. He grunted in anger, scorning his own slackness. When the monster had used the momentum of Vegeta's missed cross, to throw the saiyan on his back, in mid-air, and had sent him crashing towards earth with a ki-blast of sizzling electricity, that damn pit had not for a second crossed Vegeta's mind. All the less had he considered he might be diving straight towards it. Maybe he could have stopped the free-fall if he hadn't been so foolish to obliterate the battle terrain. Pain errupted tearing in his shoulder as a granite spike impaled it. He didn't even feel his back hit the ground. Nor did he hear the heart-wrenching cry of agony cracking the air.
He had made an unexcusable mistake for a warrior and it had nearly cost him the outcome of the battle.
Vegeta forced his thoughts away from the raw wound and from the insultingly raw memory, and strained his atention on his current surroundings.
Maybe he could, after all, identify the voices of the low but nonetheless incessant palaver next door. Besides, the attribute of incessant gave him sufficiently of a clue as to who one of the participants ought to be. But before determining whether the Woman was indeed involved in chattering someone to death - poor bastard! pain and injuries and all, Vegeta just couldn't help but feel sorry for whoever was at the receiving end of her chatting frenzy - he noticed something fussing to his right.
There was some sort of movement, a shifting noise, and he wearily turned his head to inspect the source of the sound, blinking a couple of times to dissipate the white spots, which such innocuous motion had sent dancing across his vision.
The colours fiddled into a block of strident pink and blue, which then settled into the shape of a person, quite small in stature, and Vegeta recognized the familiar face of his four-year-old daughter.
His stomach clenched as he took in Bra standing next to his bed. It wasn't the fact that she was there, when he wasn't really expecting any visitors, that took him aback. Nor was it, that she had been completely silent since he had woken, that was disconcerting him. Although such behaviour was profoundly uncharacteristic for her - he could swear he had never witnessed her spending a minute without wording something ever since she had learned to babble, a trait she no doubt took from her mother. And it wasn't even the intrudingly bright shade of pink on her sweater, which did no favours to his aching head, that was disturbing him. In all honesty, he had noticed none of that.
It was only her unnaturally dreary demeanour that Vegeta took in. And it came like a blow to the back of his head.
She looked as if she was waiting for the world to end - no, as if she was witnessing her world ending before her and all ground she'd ever known crumbling beneath her feet. She had her hands balled into fists, pressed tightly against her chest, in what he could only interpret as anxiety, and was fixing him with strikingly sad eyes.
At the sight of her, Vegeta's face, hardened with the pain he was in, immediately mildened, if only just slightly.
"Daddy, I don't want you to die!" The girl said with all her being, as if the energy of her words alone would have the strength to decide over her father's state.
"Please!" She implored.
Her plea dazed him. He looked at her for a second or two, at loss of words, then frowned.
"Who told you this nonsense?" He growled with casual authority in his voice, sounding more coarse than he had both expected and wanted.
The girl didn't reply. She only looked at him with the same pleading eyes, those huge, bright blue eyes, her mother's eyes exactly. And with her hair in that vibrant shade of turquoise, tied up with a ribbon at the top of her head - her mother must have looked just the same when she was her age.
He blinked at the fragile human before him.
What made her fear for his life? Vegeta's stomach tightened up with the thought. A sense of failure and disain for himself krept into the back of his mind as he realised he was looking every bit as broken as he felt in this weakened state.
Who in the wold was the cretin who had allowed Bra into the room, to see him in such state?
She pursed her lips tighter, tears brimming the corners of her eyes, as she tried her best to keep from crying, her entire being focused on her father.
He snarled, half in annoyance, half in resignation with what he was about to do. He had to get up and into a more dignifying posture.
He moved his right hand over his upper body to inspect how the injured shoulder and arm were bandaged and was grateful to ascertain it was properly kept immobile with a sling.
The saiyan adjusted his elbow against the bed for support and groggily pushed himself into an upright position with the good arm only. It took considerably more effort than it should have. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and put his feet on the floor.
A hoarse growl escaped his throat as pain erupted in the wounded shoulder. Immediately, Vegeta clenched his jaw so tightly he thought his teeth would break and doubled over in pain, clutching his injured arm, trying to suppress the vivid sensation of flesh and bones being slashed through with a saw.
His breathing grew strained and irregular under the pressure and he scrunched his eyes shut, overwhelmed by the violent pangs ripping through his shoulder and arm.
Very slowly, Vegeta unclenched his fingers from around the wounded limb and leaned forward, propping the elbow of his good arm against his knee for support.
The surroundings were turning increasingly blurry, his head was getting too heavy to hold up straight, and some odd sentiment that the room was reeling noisily crept into his ears. Before he knew it, he was struggling to stay conscious.
In an effort to stay awake, he opened his eyes and strained his mind on his immediate surroundings. He noticed the dark sport shorts he was wearing. He was grateful that whoever had dressed him had preferred these shorts to those bizarre, undignifying gowns that the earthlings so fervently insisted on wearing in hospital, or in this case, in hospital-like environments. They were preposterous creatures, those humans, he thought.
He decided to direct his thoughts towards more immediate issues, of fear he might lose all grip on sanity, would he allow himself to get lost in useless polemics regarding shorts and gowns and the human race. But he found it difficult to form a single coherent thaught.
In all honesty, he wanted nothing but to rest his head and for a single moment not feel a thing.
Anger rose sudden and bitter at the back of his throat and he dismissed the thought instantly, furious with himself. He would not appear weak! Not even in the secrecy of his own mind. His pride would never allow it.
Besides, this was but a reminder of the victory against the universe's strongest warrior. He would have chuckled at the thought had his jaw not been locked up against the pain.
Such unpleasant recoveries were no novelty to him. Still, it was wearing him down beyond exhaustion. And it was hard to tell whether it was the fever, or the pain, or maybe both of them combined, that was driving him on the verge of unconsciousness again.
'Perhaps it hadn't been such a brilliant idea to get up after all' his mind trailed off sarcastically as he tried to discern whether the sound that had just added to the ringing in his ears was someone sniffling or something being dragged across the floor. He settled for sniffle; some oddly muffled while at the same time high-pitched humming was accompanying it.
Only it wasn't humming, it was sobbing. Someone was definitely sobbing.
The image of his daughter instantly flooded his head. He had forgotten all about her.
Pushing all thoughts of injuries aside, he raised his head to see Bra looking at him more frightened than a chased deer, with tears streaming down her face, and nose all red from crying.
She had her arms crossed over her chest, almost as if hugging herself, her fingers grabbing tightly at the sleeves of her bright-pink sweater.
A look of inconceivable disbelief washed over Vegeta's face.
He mentally cursed himself for having such a rough time understanding children. By his calculations, getting up would make himself look less pathetic, ergo less prone to dying to her. By the looks of it, his estimations had failed miserably.
He scowled in confusion, "why are you crying now?" Again, he sounded more tired than he had intended to, in spite of the disdainful tone he had pushed into his voice.
"You hurt, daddy," Bra said.
Vegeta frowned deeper in annoyance and forced himself to straighten his back, adjusting into a more dignifying position, regardless of the splintering throes it sent racing up his spine.
"I am a Saiyan warrior," he said proudly and continued "I don't -" but then cut himself off.
He saw Bra looking at him with fresh tears welling up in her eyes.
It was becoming obvious to Vegeta that she wouldn't be impressed by the saiyan pride dictating that a warrior must endure anything without complaint, that all this meant nothing to him, that he had won the fight and his triumph was all that mattered.
Vegeta's frown mildened.
Through all the pain he was in, he could swear he felt his heart cringe at the sight of his daughter crying over him. And, although neither his pride nor his logic would allow him to admit, it was hurting worse than anything else.
He felt an incredibly strong, almost instinctual urge to calm her at any cost.
He looked at her for a few seconds trying to make sense of the situation.
"I'm not hurting," he then said unusually soft.
Bra stared at him blankly, her mouth almost trembling announcing another crying fit.
Vegeta mentally kicked himself for the stupidity of what he was about to say.
"After a fight, I need to sleep to regain strength. Now..." he drew in a breath - venturing into derision required more courage than charging, head on, into certain death. Reluctantly, he went on, "now, I've slept so much that my arms and legs feel numb. Stiff..." he hesitated, "sore even."
There were, in all honesty, no words to describe the embarrassment he felt for the ridiculously dumb explanation he had just come up with.
Had he not been so pale from exhaustion, Vegeta certainly would have blushed with shame.
But his improvised strategy seemed to be working. Bra eyed him with interest, so he continued, "It will take a while to adjust, but this... soreness is minimal, there is no pain."
Her tears were subsiding and Vegeta prayed to the Gods that there was no one there to have heard him - he would blast them into oblivion, whoever they were, before letting them walk away with the knowledge of such preposterous words having come out of his mouth.
Bra looked at her shoes for a second, before stepping closer to her father and lifting her head to meet his eyes.
She looked at him with indiscernible emotion, blinking a couple of times, before earnestly and determinately asking:
Vegeta's eyes hovered over her for a moment, there was something about this little girl that made his entire world melt with a single gesture of hers.
"Of course," he lied in a reassuring tone.
Bra smiled content. A large goofy grin spread across her face, making the few tears she had been holding back roll down her cheeks. She wiped her nose clumsily with the back of her palm and grabbed Vegeta's index finger with both her hands.
He watched her in silence.
He might have been able to blow up entire planets with the flick of a wrist on any other day, but right now holding himself upright seemed to demand more energy than he possessed. He fought to keep down the wave of nausea that rose to remind him how much he craved to just lay his head down.
But those huge blue eyes were staring at him with such innocent credulity, that he couldn't but disregard the pain and the fatigue and the feeling that his own body weighed more than half the galaxy and that whatever strength he had left, was draining by the second.
Bra suqeezed his finger tighter.
There was something about those little hands holding on to him for dear life, something about the goofy grin on his daughter's face that made him sketch back a slight, even if weary, smile of happiness.
"Come on, enough questions," Vegeta said dismissively. "Let's get you to your mother. Nag her if you have to!"
He stretched his right arm out, signalling the little girl to hop on.
The girl burst into a laughter of happiness! She climbed on the bed and grabbed on to her father's side like a baby koala.
A barely noticeable grimace of pain flashed across Vegeta's face as Bra wrapped her arms as much as she could, which wasn't much really, around him. He put his good arm around her, adjusting it so that she was sitting on his forearm, on his right side.
Without the slightest hesitation, Bra put one hand behind his neck and laid her head affectionately against his chest.
Vegeta almost scoffed disdainfully at the overdose of sweetness and at the realisation that he had lost count of the number of times he had felt his heart melt that evening.
He grit his teeth as he pushed himself up and went towards the door, carrying Bra and doing his best to ignore the slight limp in his leg.
Let me know what you think of the story! Tell me what you enjoyed and what you didn't, any feedback (regarding characters, story, vocabulary, flow, grammar, descriptions, etc.) is more than welcome - I'm very happy to learn from your feedback for future writing.