CLARITY


"Vegeta, do you love me?"

The question had caught the prince of Saiyans incredibly off guard. One minute, they had been sitting quietly and eating a late dinner—at a table instead of separately, just as the woman had demanded. Trunks had been put to bed already after his feeding, and Bulma's insufferable parents were on yet another vacation, so the alien warrior and the human woman were alone. She had chosen this moment to spout the ridiculous query.

Bulma stared at Vegeta expectantly, and he had no escape route or defense. He wasn't sure what had triggered her desire to ask the ludicrous question, but the Saiyan was certain he didn't have an answer. His usual default reaction in this kind of situation was to get angry. So he put on his most foul scowl and glared back across the table at the blue-haired woman.

"Don't be absurd," he snorted as he crossed his arms in front of his chest. "What would give you such a ridiculous notion?"

"Maybe the fact that you've been living with me for the past three years, and—oh yeah! We have a two-year-old together," Bulma replied, her animosity clearly apparent.

Vegeta's own temper began to flare. "Sharing a living arrangement and procreating doesn't prove anything, woman."

"So, you're saying that you don't?"

"Don't what?!"

"Love me."

"Why the hell is it important?"

Bulma's face twisted into a furious grimace. "I just want to know if you actually care for me, or if you just see me as a collection of pleasurable holes that feed you and do your laundry."

There was bitterness in her tone now, and despite the woman's predilection for annoying him with pointless conversation like this, Vegeta registered her profound unhappiness and resolved to try to appease her somehow. He didn't understand Bulma's unprecedented penchant for him, and neither did he completely comprehend why he'd allowed himself to spiral into an infatuation with her. A few lustful encounters had resulted in the birth of their son, and now they were indubitably linked for the rest of their lives. The bond between the Saiyan warrior and the heiress was shaky at best. In fact, most of their time together they spent hazardously navigating the murky waters of their developing relationship—each unsure of the other's true feelings. But now Bulma wanted clarity, and Vegeta was rendered speechless.

The woman sighed impatiently and crossed her arms. "I'm waiting."

The Saiyan warrior growled under his breath and searched his shifting emotions, resisting the urge to simply get up and walk away. If he didn't give her some kind of answer now, she'd likely bring up the subject again. It was best to get it over with.

Love…he thought detestably…such a bizarre, imprecise word.

Humans threw around the term constantly, using it to describe their affinities for everything—from a certain type of food to a piece of clothing to their own children. Naturally, Vegeta assumed Bulma wanted to know if he felt the more profound kind of affection towards her. How was he supposed to know? Truthfully, he wondered if he was capable of feeling love at all. Emotions unquestionably ran deep within the psyche of in the Saiyan race, but love was not one of them. There wasn't much evidence to the contrary.

Before Planet Vegeta's destruction, relationships among male and female warriors that extended beyond casual trysts were discouraged, as they resulted in an unwelcome lack of focus during combat missions. Parents often never met their offspring, as most Saiyan children were shipped away to distant worlds shortly after birth. There was simply no time to form any kind of meaningful attachments. Vegeta, being of royal blood, was an exception. Still, the King of Saiyans had quickly handed his young son over to Frieza's control when threatened with the destruction of their home world, and his feeble attempt to save the prince had come too late to garner any merit. Even Kakarot, who had grown up here on Earth and far away from any Saiyan influence, didn't seem to be predisposed to devote himself to those closest to him. He'd chosen to remain in the Other World after his death during the Cell Games, leaving his adolescent son and pregnant wife behind to fend without him.

Humans, by contrast, seemed to let the emotion completely rule their lives. From adolescence onward, they foolishly pursued it with an immeasurable, savage passion. They dedicated themselves to one person for life through a ritual called marriage, they coddled their young for years, and they would lay down their lives to protect their families. Bulma's treatment of Trunks was the perfect example: Vegeta knew she would die a thousand deaths before allowing any kind of harm befall the boy. In comparison, he'd never lifted a finger to help either one of them when they were in danger, instead relying on others to do the work for him. He'd been too relentlessly wrapped up in a cocoon of his own violent obsessions to pay attention to the woman or his son.

But that had abruptly changed when he'd witnessed his son's older counterpart from the future be gruesomely killed by Cell. Even though it was long since passed, Vegeta remembered the incident with a sickening twist developing in his stomach. He'd never before fought for any reasons other than self-preservation, a personal grudge, or a worthy challenge. But when he'd seen Cell's powerful energy beam punch a massive hole through the older Trunks's chest, something inside of him had shattered and flooded him with an unfamiliar, profoundly powerful emotion. He wasn't sure what it had been, because he hadn't dedicated much effort to trying to figure it out since the incident. In fact, Vegeta had spent most of his time afterward trying to ignore the irksome, undisputable fact that such a massive shift of sentiments had occurred within him at all. His son had died—and horribly too—right in front of him, but he had been revived and had since had returned to his own time. Despite this, the proud Saiyan prince was left increasingly shocked, baffled, and profoundly disturbed with the strange, unnamed feeling's unwillingness to be forgotten.

Whatever he'd felt in that moment when Trunks had been struck down, he knew now that he also felt that way about Bulma, but he didn't know if that emotion was love. It seemed more closely related to fear. More specifically, it was the fear of losing her. Vegeta glanced back towards Bulma. The woman's fiery gaze burned into him as he mulled over the possible responses in his head.

"Well, do you love me or not?" she insisted impatiently.

The Saiyan's brow furrowed for a moment, and once more he turned away from her exasperated glare, crossing his arms stubbornly.

"That term doesn't mean anything to me," he answered honestly.

Vegeta inertly flicked his eyes back towards the blue-haired woman in front of him. The expectant look on Bulma's face had transformed into one that conveyed pain and disappointment. She turned her head, her eyes downcast.

"Oh," she murmured, evidently hurt. "I…I guess I should have—"

Vegeta scowled again, dissatisfied with the reaction he'd incited from her. "I'm not finished."

Bulma's head snapped up, her lips slightly parted and eyebrows lifted in anticipation. Vegeta pretended not to see the wetness brimming in the corners of her eyes. His words had not been meant to cause her pain; in his own mind, he'd just shown her a great deal of respect by telling her the truth as he saw it. Despite her obvious misinterpretation of his intent, the Saiyan prince had neither the patience nor the willingness to explain his reasoning to her. As far as Vegeta was concerned, Bulma only needed to know one last truth about how he felt, and the words did not come easily to him.

"You ridiculous humans place so much value in such a meaningless word," he declared, noting the woman's sharp intake of breath as he said it. "I won't resort to such foolishness. What one says can be easily fabricated."

There was a long and unbearable pause. Finally, Bulma's lips pressed into a thin, red line, and she glanced again at the Saiyan with angry eyes.

"That is such bullshit, Vegeta! Honestly, I expected a straight answer from you, not a half-assed excuse to avoid answering the question!"

"A Saiyan does not do anything 'half-assed,'" the warrior seethed. "That was my answer. You may take it or leave it."

Bulma's eyes burned into his, more tears brimming at their edges. "I should have known better than to ask. You don't care about anything but yourself."

Once again, Bulma's tone was filled to the brim with a stinging bitterness. She didn't believe his sentiments—in fact, she was rejecting them completely. The Saiyan prince's mouth twisted into a snarl and he felt a twinge of rage swell rapidly to fill his chest, but with much effort he resisted blasting a massive hole in the wall behind her. The two blinked at one another for one more moment, and then Bulma suddenly got up, whirled around on her heels, and began to walk away.

A rapid, intense twinge of distress suddenly blindsided Vegeta from nowhere as he watched the woman flee the room. He was instantly reminded of the dreadful feeling he'd experienced when he'd lost his son to Cell's violent attack; this situation struck similar chords within him, and caused him to suddenly doubt himself and toss aside his stubbornness. Before he knew what he was doing, Vegeta had sidestepped around the table, reached out, and grasped Bulma's shoulder. She gave a short cry of protest, and even tried to wiggle out of his grasp, but the Saiyan prince picked her up like a doll and spun her around to face him.

Bulma's hand flew up to slap him, but Vegeta's own captured it before her palm could make contact with his face. Again, she tried to tug away from him, but he held on to both her shoulder and her hand steadfastly, though not enough to cause her any pain.

"Hey! Let me go, you jerk!"

The warrior watched as she struggled against him for a few more moments, an annoyed grimace marring his features. Finally, Bulma sighed and blinked up at him with a heated glance, waiting for him to do something. The prince's own temper was also close to boiling over, but somehow he kept his composure and began to speak.

"Your incompetence is staggering," Vegeta hissed angrily. "I have stayed on Earth with you. I haven't killed any of your insufferable friends, your parents, or any other human—no matter how much I am tempted. I am assisting in boy's upbringing. Yet you insist that all of that doesn't mean anything, until I use this word that means nothing to me."

Bulma's expression shifted; first she looked even more furious than before, then mildly confused, and finally some other emotion that was difficult for the Saiyan prince to interpret flooded her face.

"But it means something to me, Vegeta," she persisted quietly.

"Then tell me what that is."

Bulma pressed her lips together. Her eyes flitted back and forth as she tried to hurriedly come up with a definition. "Well…to me, love's a willingness to do anything for the person you care about, even if it means making a sacrifice."

Sacrifice. That word meant something to Vegeta. His father, despite his foolishness in doing so, had sacrificed his life to try and rescue his son from Frieza's malevolent clutches. In his younger years, the prince had watched thousands of his victims give up their own lives by throwing themselves between him and another one of his targets. His son's older counterpart had risked everything to come back from the future and try to change the past. He had even lost and regained his young life in doing so. Finally, there was Kakarot—his arch-rival and most powerful ally. Even before Vegeta had known him, the other Saiyan had willingly sacrificed himself to save Earth from the minuscule threat that Radtiz had posed. A year later, Kakarot had been revived and back on Earth only a few hours before once again tossing his own life aside in favor of defending the planet against Vegeta himself. The same phenomenon happened again on Namek against Frieza, and much more recently at the Cell Games. Even though it had been months ago, the image of Kakarot standing under the bloated, distorted form of a suicidal Cell and calmly smiling as he martyred himself was something Vegeta could still imagine as if it were yesterday.

Every time the planet or innocent lives were in peril, Kakarot had been there, completely willing to walk into the gaping maw of death for the sake of others.

Was that what love was? Vegeta supposed it made sense. After all, Bulma proclaimed her love for their child all the time, and he knew that she'd be willing to sacrifice her own life for Trunks. But was he just as willing to give up his life for her?

Vegeta raised his eyes towards her again, and once more, Bulma was looking at him with that dreaded expectant look. He finally released her from his grasp, but she did not shrink away. The prince stewed in his turbulent emotions for minute, forcing both he and the woman to marinate in uncomfortable silence for a long time. Finally, he reluctantly pushed out his sentiments in one short—but undeniably sincere—sentence.

"I suppose, if the situation arose—I'd die for you."

Even as he felt the words roll off the tip of his tongue, he felt an instant prick of regret. Though it was the truth, it seemed completely foolish to admit his weakness for this woman, especially to her face. Growling under his breath and his pulse pounding in his ears, Vegeta ripped his gaze away from Bulma, who was now staring at him open-mouthed. He was instantly anxious that she'd find a way to throw his words back at him, to use them against him in their next argument—the same way an enemy would use an unfair advantage in battle. But somehow, in between their first lustful encounter and watching his future son die, Vegeta had realized quite unexpectedly that what he felt for Bulma was much more profound than a simple infatuation.

Bulma deserved to know the truth about that.

He might not have used the words she wanted to hear, but the feeling behind those he did manage to force out of his mouth was genuine. The Saiyan prince only hoped that this time the woman would not misconstrue his admittedly cryptic, but earnest message.

Finally, Bulma spoke, but the doubtfulness in her voice was not hard to miss. "You'd die for me? Even if you knew you couldn't get wished back?"

Another long period of silence stretched between them, filling Vegeta with a nearly unbearable sense of unease. But he refused to say anything more; instead, he flicked his eyes away and nodded curtly.

"You really mean it?" the woman inquired again, and through the corner of his eye the Saiyan saw a relieved smile cracking through her shocked expression.

He nodded again.

"Then you do love me."

Vegeta's eyes narrowed one last time at Bulma, and he noted with satisfaction the lack of uncertainty in her tone. "Woman, don't make me repeat myself."

Bulma's unsure expression melted away to reveal a beaming smile, and she flung herself into his chest, clutching him tightly. Vegeta sighed and turned his head, but looked down her with no trace of animosity or anger.

"Oh, Vegeta," she sighed happily as she sank into his arms. "I love you too."


Author's Note: I told myself that even though I adore reading B/V stories, that I'd never write one of my own. But I couldn't help it—I love these two. Inspiration just struck me and my muse held my brain hostage until I poured out this entire imagined scenario on paper, so I hope you enjoyed. Please read and review!

If you are a Vegeta fan, I have another multi-chapter story called "Imperfect Symmetry" that is unlike all others. It's not a romance, but there is plenty of our favorite Saiyan prince. More than plenty, in fact. Please check it out! Thanks for your readership.

~Rose