“Vegeta? Is everything okay?”
Bulma stood outside the bathroom door, hesitating. To open it or not—that was the question. As a rule, she didn’t like to barge in on him; Vegeta was fanatical about his privacy. That was what decades of militarized servitude did to a person, she supposed. But, it had been well over an hour since he had announced he was going to take a shower and she hadn’t heard the water running in at least forty-five minutes. Now, he wasn’t answering and she was officially categorizing herself as Concerned.
She pushed the door open with a gentle knock.
What she saw was almost enough to elevate her from Concerned to Panicked. The bathtub was full to the brim, with Vegeta lying on his stomach, mostly-submerged in the water. As she entered, he jerked his head up with startling suddenness and huffed out a breath. He turned to face her, water sloshing over the tub’s edge.
“Sorry,” Bulma said, “I wanted to make sure you weren’t dead.”
“Not dead.” Vegeta sighed and rolled onto his back.
“…Just havin’ one of those ‘lie face down in the bathtub’ kind of nights?”
“So it would seem.”
He sat up, pulling his knees to his chest. Over fifteen years together and Bulma still found it a little funny to see him with his hair wet. He seemed smaller, leaner, a little uncanny, like a fluffy dog that just been groomed. Curled in the bathtub, Vegeta looked about as miserable as a shaved Pomeranian, too.
“Should I leave you to it?”
He shrugged. “You don’t have to.”
That was as close to a ‘please stay’ as she was ever going to get. Bulma tiptoed her way across the damp bathmat. She put the lid down on the toilet and sat, her bare feet perching on the edge of the tub. Vegeta captured one of her toes between his thumb and forefinger, wiggling it softly until she smiled at him.
“How’s it goin’?” Bulma asked.
“Been better,” Vegeta replied, splashing water on his face.
“We missed you at dinner tonight. My mom brought two lemon meringue pies just for you.”
“That was good of her,” Vegeta said with a nod, “I could go for some pie.”
“Yeah, you look like you could use it.”
Vegeta smirked at that.
“So, do you… want to tell me what’s up?”
“Same shit, different day.”
The door shifted silently, a little black shadow whisking its way across the tile.
“Oh, no, you don’t!” Bulma scooped the cat into her arms and depositing him back into the hall, closing the door firmly. “Not this time, you bathwater-drinking little weirdo.”
From the hall, Scratch mewled petulantly, decrying the injustice which had befallen him.
“I don’t know why that cat loves bathrooms so much. I swear, every time I have to pee he has to be, like, Right There.”
“Maybe he just hates closed doors,” Vegeta said, flicking the surface of the water. He watched with a bemused expression as Bulma shucked her pajamas, trying to kick them out of the splash zone. “What’re you doing?”
“I’m getting in. Move over.”
She stepped over the edge and settled into the bath facing him. Their legs tangled together in the tepid water.
“It’s not that warm anymore,” Vegeta grumbled by way of apology.
“That’s okay. I don’t mind.” Bulma took a breath and smiled. “It just felt kind of unfair for you to be naked in the tub without me being naked in the tub.”
“Unfair to whom?”
“I don’t know. Both of us, I guess.”
For a minute, they simply sat. Drips from the faucet echoed dimly against the tiled walls. In the corner of the tub, little bits of silicon caulking were starting to peel. Bulma picked at one idly. As Vegeta tilted his head back to gaze at the ceiling, she watched a drop of water slide along the length of his throat, over the dip in his collar bone, down his chest.
Bulma still considered herself Concerned. It wasn’t just tonight. All week, Vegeta had been despondent. Quiet, reclusive. Absent from meals, awake at odd hours. A decade ago, she might have chalked it up to a whim of his personality, but now, she knew better. Something was bothering him.
Their eyes met and she smiled. Warmly, entreatingly—the sort of smile that doubled as an invitation. He simply smirked and looked away.
“You’re going to sit here until I talk, aren’t you?”
“Nope. I’m sitting here until you tell me to leave or I get all prune-y, whichever comes first. Whether you want to talk or not is your own business.”
His hand moved beneath the surface of the water, catching her ankle in its grasp. She liked the way his fingers felt against her skin. The way he could slide his hand along the back of her calf with just enough pressure to keep it from tickling. Vegeta let his hand rest on her knee and sighed.
“I’ve been having, ah…”
He paused, face contorting into a frown. Bulma couldn’t be sure whether he was trying to remember the word, or to summon the courage to continue. She waited. The fingers of his free hand tapped an irritated rhythm against the edge of the tub.
“Thoughts,” he said at last.
“Killing, mostly,” he answered, casually. “The smell of destruction. Of blood. The way it feels to—to snap someone’s neck, or to crack open an exoskeleton and watch their insides pulse. The sounds of death. The gurgling of someone choking on their own blood. It’s very visceral. And somewhat... enticing.”
“Oh,” she said, trying her best to keep her expression neutral. Judging by the look on his face, she wasn’t doing a very good job of it.
“Don’t worry. I no longer have any interest in killing anyone who doesn’t pose a direct threat to me. They’re just thoughts.”
Vegeta’s hand left her knee. He drew his legs up against his chest again, resting his chin on his knees. Here it came: the shut-down. Beneath the gruff exterior and the perma-scowl, Vegeta still held on to the lingering fear of driving her away. That if he said too much, revealed too much, if she ever really knew him, it would be the end.
But it was too late. She already knew him. Even the dark, terrifying bits. It wasn’t always easy to hear, but it never made her love him any less.
“Do you miss it?” she asked after a minute. “Purging and killing and wanton destruction?”
“A bit. It’s very liberating, in its own way. No thoughts, no concerns, just instinct and sensation.” He relaxed a bit, stretching one leg towards her. “I don’t know. It’s difficult to hold two opposing truths in my mind at once. I liked who I was and I like who am now.”
“Do you? Like who you are?”
“Sure,” he said with a noncommittal shrug. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
“Do you ever think about leaving for good? Not an accusation, just genuinely curious.”
Vegeta scoffed. “And doing what? I don’t even know where I’d go.”
“Well… if planetary trade is still a thing, you could go into business for yourself. I mean, you’re way stronger than you were when you first came here. You could probably handle anything.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” he said, though they both knew better.
“No, I’m serious,” Bulma continued, “What’s to stop you from going off and making yourself king of some place?”
“I’ve thought about that,” he admitted, letting his head tip back against the tile. “But, as I said, my opinion on killing civilians has changed. I don’t think I could.... that is, I don’t relish the idea of killing for no reason.”
“Most people find money and power a good enough reason to do most things,” she pointed out.
“Wealth sort of loses its appeal if you don’t to spend it on anything. And I don’t really care about things, material goods. I mean, if I have the choice between good food and bad food, I want good food. But in the absence of options, I’ll eat whatever. And as for power—” He took a deep breath and blew out his cheeks. “I suppose I’m interested in it on a personal level, rather than an interplanetary one.”
Bulma scooped water into her hands and watched it trickle out between her fingers. There was that touch again—gentle, but firm. Vegeta’s palms smoothed along the tops of her shins.
“There are many other reasons I stay here besides not knowing where else to go, you know.”
“I know. I was just curious if you ever thought about it.”
“Yes, well... short answer: yes.”
“I get that,” she said with a nod, “You know, if I’m being honest, I’ve being feeling sort of the same way.”
He made a noise that was somewhere between a scoff and a chuckle. “Have you?”
“Sure. Not the blood and guts part, but just… kind of listless. I’m always busy with work. If it’s not work, it’s the kids. If it’s not the kids, it’s something else. When was the last time I did something for myself? And not little things, like getting my hair done or having an extra glass of wine or something. I mean really do something for me, just for me. Sort of like you were saying about the whole...” Murder thing? “Like, you miss that freedom of leaning into something a hundred and ten percent, just pushing everything else out of your mind.”
“I suppose that’s one way to put it.”
It was funny, Bulma thought, how ordinary things had become, how routine. Their lives were so unconventional by default, she hadn’t noticed the change. No more quests for legendary Dragon Balls, no great mysteries or triumphs. Now it was PTA meetings and board meetings; teen angst and toddler tantrums; watching the Prince of All Saiyans fall asleep on the couch while his daughter plays with her toys. Strange to thing that twenty years ago they were two strangers, coming face-to-face on an alien world, thousands of lightyears from Earth.
“That’s it!” Bulma announced with a gesture so violent it sent a small tidal wave crashing over the tub’s edge.
Vegeta’s frown was fifty-percent curiosity and fifty-percent dismay at being splashed. “What’s it?”
“We should take a trip—no, not a trip—a voyage.” She let the word roll around in her mouth, liking the grandiose feel of it.
“We’re going to visit your sister in August.”
“No, that’s a trip. I’m talking voyage. Like, interstellar voyage.”
“As in space?”
“As in space,” she said with a nod. “Just you and me.”
“You hate space,” Vegeta said in a cautious tone, as if wary of walking into a trap.
“That was years ago and under very stressful circumstances,” Bulma waved her hand dismissively and went on, “I think I’d like going with someone who actually knows what to expect from alien worlds. Maybe we could go to a planet you’ve been to before—somewhere you remember liking.”
He gave a short, sharp laugh and shook his head. “I don’t think we want to go to any world I’ve ever been to before.”
“Fair enough. Then we’ll go somewhere different. Somewhere uninhabited, where we can swim around naked in the moons-light.”
The more she talked about it, the more Bulma was starting to like this idea. She couldn’t remember the last time they’d gone anywhere together, just the two of them. Certainly not since Bulla was born. Bulma pictured herself and Vegeta, stretched out on an alien shore, gazing up at unfamiliar constellations. They’d never really had a honeymoon—was it too much to hope for the taste of honey on a distant moon?
Vegeta drummed his fingers against the edge of the tub. She watched his fingertips strike the porcelain, listening to the rhythm of his thoughts: quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, slow. Slow. Slow.
“…How long would we be gone?”
“What about Bulla and the boy?”
“Are you kidding? My parents are dying to spoil their grandchildren. And I’m sure Videl and Gohan could babysit in a pinch.”
“Or we could bring the kids. I just thought it’d be nice to have a little… one-on-one time.”
He snorted. “You would think that.”
“Oh, like you didn’t.”
They smirked at one another. Or, rather, they were actively trying not to smirk at one another and failing. Vegeta opened his mouth to reply and flinched, receiving a mouthful of bathwater for his efforts.
“Don’t say it!” Bulma cautioned, her fingers ready to send another flick of water his direction. “Don’t you dare call me a vulgar woman.”
“I wasn’t going to.”
He splashed her back, meekly, the water barely rippling. Bulma smiled; that was as close to a forfeit as she was going to get.
“So, what’d’ya think,” she asked and sat up a little straighter, “are you down for ‘Vegeta and Bulma’s Voyage to the Stars’ or not?”
“If you think we can survive being locked in a tin can together for days at a time,” he said with a shrug.
“Does that count as a ‘yes’?”
“Yes,” he answered and before she could give so much as a ‘hooray’, added, “Pull the drain, I’m getting out.”
“Hooray!” Bulma said anyway, unplugging the tub with a flourish.
She watched Vegeta rise, watched droplets of lukewarm water run along the groves and channels of his muscles; the exquisitely carved chest; the curve of his hip; the perfect, taut roundness of his ass. A whole vacation alone with that. It was enough to make her mouth water. As Vegeta turned, she reached her hands up to grab at him.
“Don’t,” he said, swatting her hands away.
Bulma pouted and reached again. “But I want to squeeze it!”
“Am not! Your butt is very squeezable.”
“Sure,” he said with a scoff, wrapping himself in a towel.
“I’m serious. Plenty of people would agree with me. You want me to send out a survey and prove it to you?”
“Remind me why I just agree to spend a month alone in space with you?” he teased.
“Because,” she answered, climbing out of the tub and reaching for a towel. “you love me, sucker. And I’m pretty sure I only agree to two weeks.”
“A month,” he repeated, arms encircling her waist. “I’ve thought of some things I’d like to show you, after all.”
“Did you really?” she asked.
Bulma smiled, giddy at the idea of seeing the cosmos through his eyes. Even if it turned out Vegeta's idea of Exciting Space Destinations was only a series of desolate asteroids, it was new part of himself that he was willing to share, every part bringing them closer together. And that, Bulma supposed, was the real capital-v Voyage.
She leaned into his embrace, kissed him and said: “I can’t wait.”