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to be held, to be known

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The longer Bulma spent in close quarters with him, the more she understood that, despite suffering from what she could charitably describe as 'impulse issues', Vegeta possessed immense self control. And no wonder. He'd been under Frieza's thumb for most of his life, carrying out that monster's orders, hollowing himself out to survive. She doubted she could've held it together for one year, let alone twenty.

Oh, Vegeta hadn't told her anything. He wouldn't. Too close to revealing his scars. But he did like to complain. Add the little scraps of information he let slip in between seas of 'I cannot believe this planet doesn't even have blah' and 'humans are the most ridiculous species in the universe because blah' together with what she'd jotted down after Namek, and you had an unsettling picture.

Planet Vegeta had been destroyed when Prince Vegeta was just a child. He'd been in Frieza's grasp ever since. Saiyans didn't develop scar tissue as easy as humans did, but the marks were still plain to see. Goku had never flinched away from touch the way Vegeta did. But then, Goku had never grabbed her arm before she could reach him and bent it back as far as it would go, then bared his teeth to make sure his point got across, either.

The point did indeed come across, but that didn't stop her from immediately throwing a wrench at him and yelling about rude guests. He dodged the wrench carelessly, but the second she raised her voice, he was transfixed.

Sometimes Bulma woke up shaking from nightmares where their efforts hadn't been enough. Where Yajirobe's sword had missed, where Gohan couldn't stand up to a trained killer, where the Spirit Bomb dissolved in Kuririn's arms. Where Goku fell and never got up – or worse, took one look at Vegeta's cruel smile and mirrored his expression.

They could rip the world apart together. Vegeta, at least, had done it before.

The human brain wasn't capable of envisioning numbers in the billions. It was just too big. Maybe that was Bulma couldn't make herself understand the true depth of the blood on Vegeta's hands. He'd killed planets for two decades, but the only one she could care about was Earth. And on Earth, he'd failed. Now he haunted her spare room and paced like a caged animal waiting for its next meal.

It wasn't anything like love that drove her toward him, but a scientist's raw curiosity. She wanted to know what he was, this cold, arrogant man who killed her friends and made the strangest faces when she berated him. He could kill her with one hand – one finger, even – but her fury got his attention the same way Goku's defiance did. Despite the immediate fight-or-flight reaction, she found she liked having the full force of his attention on her. Almost as much as she liked picking him apart.

Prince Vegeta, last of his name, was a puzzle. She refused to let him go unsolved.