When the dust settles, the Dragon Balls disperse, and the clouds brighten from grey to blue, that's when Vegeta realises everything is different.
It's over now. Everything is over. There's no more big bad on the way. Frieza is dead, Cell dead, now Kid Buu is long gone while Majin Buu is a "good" guy. There's no strong fighters ready to bare down on earth and destroy it. Everyone is alive. The earth intact.
Yet Vegeta feels lost.
He glances behind him to see the self proclaimed Z Fighters beginning to celebrate Majin Buu's new found innocence. They'd gathered together to witness Kakarot's wish to erase Buu from Earth's minds, and now they're starting fresh. They look thrilled as they jump up and down, holding each other, and laughing loudly enough that the city in the distance can probably hear them.
Vegeta watches them from a distance, mostly his son and ex-wife. They look overjoyed, immersed amongst their friends, and Vegeta can't help the cold monster of rejection crawling into his stomach.
It could be helped. He could take the measly few steps and join in. He could copy Kakarot and lift his son up into his arms and throw him about. He could start to repair the destroyed relationship with Bulma by wrapping his arms around her waist and propping his chin on her shoulder, much like Gohan and his partner. He could clap some shoulders and throw out some smiles, but he won't.
He's not one of them. He knows this.
Without considering anymore he takes to the air. There's a few calls, a snarky comment or two that he manages to hear, but he blocks it out as he leaves them all behind. They'll be happier without him, and he's convinced he will be too.
So he leaves, and he flies and flies until the sky darkens again and the stars come out. Still he flies until he can't anymore, and when he hovers over the city he hovers over Capsule Corp for the longest of times.
He can see them all in the courtyard, a continued celebration, and something in him is practically demanding for him to join them. Once again he refuses though, and instead he floats to the outskirts of the city.
Of all the places he returns to, the crater from his battle with Majin Buu is the last place he expected. It's phenomenally large still, easily the size of a small city, and as Vegeta sets down with a quiet noise he thinks it's rather poetic.
Such a large crater to show his largest failure.
Bulma always has called him dramatic. His lips quirk at the thought of the woman. Despite this thing between them ending, this marriage, he still holds a small amount of affection for her. After all, she is the mother of his child. It would be dishonourable to completely desert her.
He takes a seat on a small cropping of rocks that overseas the crater. It seems out of place to have such a large blemish in an otherwise untouched landscape. It reminds him of Planet Vegeta. Rock and sand everywhere with the gentle wind breezing through the air. It makes him yearn for his old life, the life before earth, before Frieza, back when he was small and could fit on his fathers lap overseeing the lesser classes train. He aches for that life, aches for what could've been.
Instead he's on a backwash planet counting his failures and isolating himself from anyone he could ever trust.
The truth hurts, and it's so easy to deny that deny Vegeta does. He's not stupid enough to think he's not a spiral of self-pity, but he's too unwilling to admit it. Instead he hides away and wishes feverishly for things that will never happen.
He picks up a stone that's settled beside him and holds it tight. He feels it's sharp edges press through his gloves and he focuses on that instead of the consuming thoughts. Getting lost in his mind never paid off in the past, surely it will not now.
The sudden footsteps behind him make him jump, the crunch of boots on stones splitting the air. Vegeta hunches his shoulders and balls his fists, ready for whatever it is, but the moment he registers the ki he huffs out a snarky laugh.
"Kakarot," he greets, relaxing on slightly. He listens for the jostling of Kakarot's gi as he walks around the crop of rocks, and he looks up to see Kakarot smiling at him as he stops.
"You're missing out on one hell of a party," Kakarot says, "seems pretty lonely out here."
Kakarot hums in acknowledgement before turning to look at the crater behind him. Vegeta stares at it too, wondering what Kakarot is thinking before ignoring his own thoughts and tossing the rock in his hand into the dark.
The sound of it bouncing down the side of the crater is thunderous in the muted air, and Vegeta holds his breath as he waits for it to stop. He didn't realize just how deep the crater was.
When the noises stop and Vegeta breathes out Kakarot turns to face him with a stern face and hard set of the lips.
"You know, Piccolo tried to come back and save you," Kakarot says into the silence. "Krillin told me he had to hold him back. The only thing that stopped him was that he thought you'd want him to save his son first."
"He was right," Vegeta mutters, and Kakarot's sigh takes him by surprise.
"Piccolo won't admit it," he continues as he takes a seat on the rock next to Vegeta. It's slightly below Vegeta's and leaves them at eye level. "But he told me that seeing you hovering over this pit completely turned to stone still haunts him. Gohan's told me a few times about Piccolo waking him up from his nightmares, some of them about you."
Vegeta doesn't have much to say to that. He wants to accuse Kakarot of lying, but even though the story sounds fake he knows that Kakarot wouldn't lie about something like this. No. He's not that devious.
"What are you trying to say?" Vegeta eventually asks through gritted teeth.
"I'm trying to tell you that you don't have to keep doing this avoiding thing," Kakarot responds immediately. "There's no need. You're one of us. We’re not going to turn you away."
Vegeta can't hold back his startled laugh, and it sounds bitter to his own ears. He glances over to see Kakarot frowning and he smirks almost nastily at the other Saiyan.
"You're telling me they all accept me," he says sarcastically, "all of them with no hesitation."
Vegeta raises an eyebrow. "Even Krillin?” Kakarot nods his head and Vegeta snorts. “Your sons? Your oldest is still scared of me, and your youngest hasn’t forgiven me for my treatment of him and Trunks while I was Majin.”
Kakarot shakes his head. “You don’t give them enough credit,” he defends, “I think you’d be surprised by my boys.”
Vegeta rolls his eyes. “Your wife then,” he snaps, “what about her? She won’t have forgiven me for what I’ve done to her family.”
The silence is strange, and Vegeta frowns as he looks at the oddly quiet Kakarot. It’s not often that he sees the man so sullen so quickly, and he has half a temptation to ask what is wrong. The dominant part of himself though just forces him to stay silent and wait for Kakarot to no doubt speak.
It takes a while though, enough for Vegeta to start fidgeting, before Kakarot turns to him with a very fake and strained smile.
“No,” he says, “Chi-Chi… she doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what she thinks.”
“What?” Vegeta can’t stop from saying, feeling utterly surprised. Last he checked the duo doted on each other enough to make him sick.
“Turns out having an absent husband who constantly dies on you can ruin a marriage,” Kakarot chuckles, his laughter cold and echoing. It’s unnatural, and Vegeta tries not to feel uncomfortable at the strangeness of the moment.
“She left you?”
“I guess technically I left her,” Kakarot sighs, “that first time I died. With Raditz.”
“That wasn’t your fault.”
“No,” Kakarot agrees with a small smile. “No, it wasn’t. But it happened. And I get it. She’s spent so long without me that she’s a whole new person. This time of me being back permanently, searching for the Dragon Balls… it’s been stressful. We’re different people now.”
Vegeta stares at him. It’s not often Kakarot sounds so smart, so philosophical. It’s strange, but Vegeta thinks maybe it’s not a bad strange.
“She was selfish,” he points out, “for leaving you. If she was your true mate she would’ve stuck to your side.”
Kakarot cocks his head to the side as he looks over at Vegeta. “My Grandpa told me once that there is a thin line between selfishness and self-preservation,” he quotes, “it just depends on what side you’re on.”
For some reason the look that Kakarot is sending his way speaks about more than just this thing with his wife. Vegeta shifts uneasily and looks away from Kakarot, unsure if he’s reading into the gaze too much or if Kakarot is trying to say something to him. Trying to… extend his understanding?
No. Kakarot doesn’t know much about anything that happened with Frieza. Yet, Vegeta honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he did. They all believed Kakarot to be an idiot, and idiot he is, yet he’s not a complete fool.
“If it makes you feel better,” Kakarot says into the quiet, his voice lighter now that it grabs Vegeta’s attention. “Piccolo and I used to try to kill each other on a daily basis. And then he sort of succeeded when he killed my brother at the same time, who tried to kill me and my son, and yet he’s still part of the Z Fighters. I don’t think trying to kill one or two of us makes you special.”
“It wasn’t just one or two.”
“No. It wasn’t. But I think you forget that you never actually succeeded.”
“What does that matter?”
Kakarot grins at him. “It’s all that matters,” he states, and he continues to surprise Vegeta by reaching out at placing a hand on his arm. “I get that you don’t want to go to the party,” he says, “and that’s okay. But I want you to come home with me. No one should be alone tonight.”
It doesn’t sound like a proposition, even though Vegeta’s heart picks up at the thought. No. He can’t be thinking of Kakarot in that light. He looks at the offer for what it is, a simple act of friendship, and when he looks up at the Saiyan he can see the sheer determination on Kakarot’s face. He won’t be taking no for an answer.
Vegeta nods his head slowly, watching as Kakarot's smile transforms to utter joy before he immediately raises his fingers to his forehead and Vegeta is lurched forward via Instant Transmission.
They land on sand of all things, and Vegeta looks around to see they’re at Kame House. He’s only been here a handful of times, not feeling like it’s an appropriate place for him, but the house looks more inviting that Capsule Corp at the moment.
When he glances over to Kakarot he gets a weary smile in return.
“Chi-Chi and the boys are at the house,” he explains unnecessarily, probably to fill up the quiet, “I’m living with Master Roshi until I figure out what to do. There’s plenty of rooms. I think Krillin and 18 are out for the night as well.”
It sounds like he’s trying to convince Vegeta to stay, but it’s not like he has intentions on leaving now. Too be honest with himself, a rare thing, he doesn’t mind the prospect of staying with Kakarot for the evening.
He looks pointedly towards the house and Kakarot grins before pulling him towards it. Vegeta doesn’t bother to shake Kakarot’s grip, he doesn’t see the point, even if he does feel slightly like a dog being lead by an owner.
Despite the quiet look of the house Vegeta can hear a TV blasting inside. He almost feels reluctant to go inside until Kakarot’s hand tightens and he pulls him through the door. It’s only Roshi, he realises as they step into the living room to see the old man watching some glorified women in bikinis show. He doesn’t really want to think about it.
Roshi glances at them briefly before doing a double take. Vegeta expects to hear something unsavoury, but the old man just smiles at the two.
“Care to join me?” he asks, gesturing at the TV set.
“Thanks, Master Roshi,” Kakarot responds, and Vegeta takes a small subconscious step behind the man to let him do the talking. “We’re both really tired. I thought we might head to bed.”
“Is everything alright, boys?”
Kakarot grins happily and tugs Vegeta that little bit closer until he’s almost pressed into the other Saiyan’s side. “Absolutely,” he says happily, “just spending some time together.”
“Bonding over the woes of women, huh?” Roshi sighs, shaking his head. “Poor boys. I don’t envy you.”
Vegeta has half a mind to snap at him. Rationally he knows the man isn’t trying to be condescending, but he can’t help but feel his hackles rise at any show of sympathy. He doesn’t want it.
“Have a good night, Master Roshi,” Kakarot quickly says before pulling hard on Vegeta’s arm and steering him to the stairs. Vegeta doesn’t say a word, just ascending them with Kakarot muttering under his breath in front of him. He thinks its an apology on Roshi’s behalf, but Vegeta doesn’t listen.
Instead he focuses on the fact that Kakarot seems to have taken them to a room covered in Kakarot’s things and closed the door behind them. It only takes him a moment to realise that Kakarot intends for them to… to share.
Surprisingly that doesn’t sound as distasteful as he thought it would.
“You don’t mind, do you?” Kakarot asks as he walks around Vegeta to sit on one side of the double bed. “Only… I just… well, some company would be nice and-“
“Do shut up,” Vegeta interrupts, saving them both from Kakarot’s awkward attempt to explain. He walks forward himself to perch on the other side of the bed and start to remove his shoes and gloves. It’s been a long day, and frankly exhausting in more ways than one, so he’s looking forward to some sleep.
“I mean, I can build a pillow wall or something if you want?” Kakarot continues to babble though as Vegeta goes about sliding into bed. “Its okay, I can go and get some more sheets and things and then we don’t have to touch? I can be a space invader, I’ve been told, so I don’t want to make things-“
“Goodnight, Kakarot,” Vegeta humphs, but he can’t help the small smile on his face as he rolls over. He saves Kakarot from seeing it though by burying his face in a pillow and closing his eyes.
“Oh, um, goodnight, Vegeta,” Kakarot says, his voice sounding slightly strangled and Vegeta just rolls his eyes. He lies still and listens to the rustling of Kakarot’s clothes as he sheds them, and he waits until Kakarot is tucked under the covers and the light is out for him to finally unwind properly.
All he can hear is their breathing, Kakarot sounding more flurried than his own, and Vegeta can’t help but smile at the slight fantasy that maybe Kakarot is flustered at Vegeta being in his bed.
He can’t leave it like this though. Being on Earth has taught him at least some human manners, ones different from the Saiyans, and he thinks that Kakarot would appreciate them considering his childhood raising.
“Thank you, Kakarot,” he says into the dark. He hears Kakarot’s breath hitch, and he smothers another smile into his pillow determined not to let it out.
“You’re welcome, ‘Geta,” Kakarot replies, his body relaxing beside Vegeta’s, and for the first time in a long time Vegeta falls asleep feeling warm and safe.
In the morning Vegeta quietly gets up. He tries not to make a sound as he moves around the room, gathering his things as quickly as he can. He pauses once to look back at Kakarot, his mouth twitching in amusement at seeing the man sprawled across the bed with his mouth open against the pillow. There’s a little drool patch on the pillow, a dark stain, and Vegeta can’t decide if the slight twinge in his stomach is fondness or revolution.
It doesn’t stop him from reaching out to tug a blanket over Kakarot’s shoulders.
As he leaves through the back kitchen door, he’s surprised by a clearing of the throat. When he looks over it’s to see Roshi sitting at his dining table holding a mug of hot drink.
“Want one?” Roshi asks, gesturing at his drink, and Vegeta immediately crosses his arms as he shakes his head. He doesn’t reply, after all he’s hardly talked to this man before, but he does pause briefly in the doorway. Bulma has taught him many a time that it is polite to at least ensure someone has finished speaking before leaving.
Roshi just smiles at him before tipping the mug back and finishing the drink. With a stifled belch he stands up to move to the sink. Vegeta feels uncomfortable hovering, and he takes the turned back as his signal to leave, but when his hand is pushed against the door Roshi finally speaks up again.
“You know, young man,” Roshi calls out with his back still turned, “last night when I asked Kakarot if everything was alright, that extended to you too.”
Vegeta stumbles for words, more unsure than anything else. “I…” he starts to say but trails off as Roshi turns to look at him.
“No pressure, Vegeta,” Roshi continues, “we Z Fighters stay together. If there’s anything you need, just ask.”
Vegeta doesn’t say a word, just stares before giving a stiff nod and walking out the door. There are no words, really. He can’t find anything to say that would be receptive to the old man.
He’s not a Z Fighter, he knows that. It’s a false sentiment when said to him. Besides the fact that he’s attempted to kill almost all of them, no matter what Kakarot says, the only connection he’d ever had with them was through Bulma, and that ship had sailed long ago.
He takes to the air with a subtle whoosh, not looking back at the small house on the small island as he goes. He’s not too sure where he’s heading as he flies towards the mainland, but eventually he finds himself drifting towards Capsule Corp.
He’s not actually been home in a while, busy with training and all round avoiding people, so when he lands in the courtyard outside of their house he’s disorientated by the changes. Bulma has a tendency to decorate whenever she’s stressed, and by the looks of it stressed would be an understatement.
Vegeta picks his way through the new gardens and ornaments decorating the outside as he makes his way to Bulma’s lab. He can already hear the clanging and crashing from outside the building, and he feels fondness at the thought of the woman working hard on whatever her newest invention is.
He makes sure he knocks loud enough to be heard over all the heavy machinery, and the clanging stops for a handful of moments before the door swings open and Bulma is staring at him with large goggles over her eyes and a black singed lab coat.
“Vegeta!” she greets with a giant smile and steps forward to hug him tightly, and Vegeta only just avoids being impaled by whatever the tool is in her hand.
“Bulma,” he grunts, raising a hand to pat her back. He’s not an overt fan of physical affection, only barely tolerating it from his young son, and even then it’s only because the glare he gets from Bulma and stern talking to is not worth rejecting Trunks.
“What brings you here?” she asks the moment she pulls away, stepping back into the work shop and gesturing for him to come in. “Sorry it’s a mess. Dad and I have being working on some new spacecraft. There’s been some talk about traveling back to Namek to check in but who knows if we’ll be well received. I guess we won’t know until we find out though.”
Vegeta doesn’t say anything in response, just walks in quietly and takes a look around the room. It’s as chaotic as he’d guessed, but amongst all the mess is a half built yellow spaceship. It doesn’t look too big, but Vegeta won’t put it past Bulma to upgrade it more.
“Can we…” he hesitates, crossing his arms across his chest as he keeps his back to Bulma. He’s not very good at this vulnerable thing. “Can we talk?”
Bulma walks around him until she’s facing him, looking utterly concerned and that makes Vegeta nervous. He doesn’t like being on the end of a concerned look. It makes him feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.
“Of course,” Bulma says slowly, “what do you want to talk about?”
Too many things, Vegeta thinks, but also none at all. He thinks about his conversation with Kakarot yesterday, and he wonders if Bulma would be better to talk to than his old rival. Then again, he’s never really spoken to Bulma about… well, anything really. The only reason he’s here is he doesn’t know anyone else to talk to.
“Forget it,” he grumps, letting out a huff and dropping his arms to his side. Bulma reaches out and grabs his wrist though, lifting up her goggles with her other hand as she continues to stare at him.
“No, really,” she insists, tightening her hand, “what’s wrong? You seem… off.”
Vegeta huffs, contemplating what he can say to get rid of her before he drops his head to stare at the ground.
"Vegeta? Where were you last night? You didn't come home."
"I was with Kakarot last night," he finally says, every word said reluctantly through gritted teeth. "I stayed with him."
Bulma's gasp makes him look up. Her hand is covering her mouth, eyes wide, and her hand goes relaxed where it is still on his wrist.
"Did you..." she murmurs, trailing off as a small blush rises on her cheeks.
"No!" Vegeta snaps, dragging his hand from her grip and wrapping his arms around himself. He can't make eye contact with her, lest he ends up with a matching blush. "No. He found me and asked me to go back with him."
"To Master Roshi's," Bulls says quietly. "You know that him and Chi-Chi-"
Bulma stands quietly, and Vegeta can see her watching him out of the corner of his eye. She seems to go through various emotions, shock, disbelief, amusement. It makes Vegeta want to squirm.
"So, do you..."
"We are not children," Vegeta grounds out, "I will not stand here and tolerate adolescent conversation."
"Then why are you here?"
Frankly that question stumps him. Why is he here? Why did he come see Bulma of all people? If he deigned to admit it then he'd say he simply panicked at waking up next to Kakarot, but surely that wouldn't lead to him rushing to Bulma?
"You know what I think?" Bulma says as she leans right into his space. "I think you woke up this morning and felt some things you've never felt and got scared."
"You don't know what you're talking about."
Bulma laughs and reaches out to grip his shoulder tightly. "I know you best, Vegeta," she chuckles, "well, after Goku that is. Even then, you're both men. Saiyans at that. Emotions are not your forte." She taps her chin in thought though and frowns. "Goku is better than you though. Maybe you should talk to him."
She smiles. "What you're feeling, silly. It's not shameful to have a crush you know. You use to have one on me, what's so different about Goku?"
"I lusted after you," Vegeta snaps, glaring at her, "there is a difference."
He doesn't quite realise what he's said until he sees the triumphant smirk on Bulma's face, and slowly it sets in.
It is different. He feels different to Bulma than he does to Kakarot. He glances at her with surprise, and she grins at him.
"Think about it a bit more," she says gently and reaches out to boop his nose. It goes to show how stunned he is that he doesn't push her away. "After all, we can't have you going gunhoe into this and regretting everything later. I'd hate to see you hurt."
He's in too much of a daze after that, staring vacantly at the ground, and even when Bulma pushes him outside he takes off with her voice sounding like white noise.
Him and... Kakarot? He'd never given it proper thought. Sure, they were ‘friends’ now but he’d always thought that the feelings he'd felt were anger or hate, the stomach feelings were revulsion, that he'd merely been jealous of Kakarot's strength and not... lusting after it. It messes with his head, makes him unsettled, and it's enough to keep him distracted until he all but flies into the subject of his thoughts.
"Hey!" Kakarot calls, steadying him gently as Vegeta stares at him in shock. "I wondered where you'd gone. You weren't there when I woke up."
Vegeta just stares, stares and stares as he realises that the feeling from this morning had been fondness. Seeing this stupid man sprawled over a bed with drool covering his damn gross pillow was somehow attractive to him. Somehow that mess of hair, that goofy grin, the sheer stupidity of this man was maybe just what he wanted.
Kakarot frowns at him, noticing the lack of response, and he squeezes Vegeta's arms gently. "Are you okay?" he asks, and Vegeta snaps out of it immediately.
"Fine," he grunts, shaking off Kakarot's hands. He flies back just enough to get some space and breathe some air that's not filled with Kakarot.
Kakarot doesn't look convinced, and he glances past him to no doubt see Capsule Corp behind him. Vegeta watches with interest as Kakarot's shoulders slump slightly and his frown deepens even more.
"Seeing Bulma?" he asks casually, too casually, and Vegeta's eyes narrow.
The silence is suffocating, only the wind whistling past as Vegeta looks at Kakarot and Kakarot looks anywhere but Vegeta. It's too tense, and Vegeta thinks about what Bulma said and decides to maybe, just maybe, start broaching the subject.
" Kakarot," he says firmly, putting as much courage into the word as he would any other battle. It catches Kakarot's attention, and he glances over at him with a raised eyebrow. "What... what do you know of love?"
The surprise is practically tangible, and Kakarot stares at him with an open mouth. He doesn't break the silence, leaving Vegeta hovering in the air feeling totally foolish as he fidgets.
Time goes by, the silence reigns, and Vegeta curses the day Bulma Briefs was born.
"Look, forget it, it was just a-"
"I don't know much," Kakarot cuts him off quietly, his surprise melting to curiosity. "But I know some things."
"Tell me," Vegeta demands, floating closer as he waits for Kakarot's explanation.
He doesn't get it though. Instead he gets Kakarot holding out his hand with a large grin, his other hand pressed to his forehead. Vegeta stares at his outstretched hand stupidly, unsure what to do, and when he glances up Kakarot's grin gets bigger.
"Come back with me," Kakarot says, "come home and I'll tell you."
Vegeta is speechless, and he can't decide whether he should be horrified at the concept or potentially excited.
Going with horrified he shakes his head.
"No," he mutters, "no-"
"I won't bite," Kakarot persuades, hovering closer, "come on." He wriggles his fingers and inches his hand closer. Vegeta scrunches his nose in distaste, or at least he thinks distaste, before he sighs. Take a risk, right?
He pucks up his courage and slowly takes Kakarot’s hand, ignoring the little thrill it sends up his arm. Somehow Kakarot’s smile gets even bigger, and he pulls Vegeta closer until they’re almost pressed chest to chest.
Then, in a blink of an eye, they’re standing in Roshi’s kitchen with the old man staring at them with a quirked eyebrow as Vegeta tries not to lose his balance at the sudden jarring feeling of Instant Transmission.
“Afternoon, boys,” Roshi greets before promptly walking out the door and leaving them to stand awkwardly watching after him.
“Well, its safe to say he’s getting use to Instant Transmission now,” Kakarot comments as he lets Vegeta go to sit at the table. Vegeta is almost positive that he doesn’t make up the way Kakarot’s hand lingers and trails on his hand though, but then again his heighten awareness now is making him overthink things.
He gingerly perches on a seat at the table, convinced that he’s about to run away. His nerves are playing up a storm, but he forces them all back like normal to raise his head and stare at Kakarot. He doesn’t say a word, just waits for Kakarot to broach the subject.
“Why do you want to know about love?” Kakarot asks after a few moments of just staring at each other. Vegeta hesitates before he glances down at the table.
“Some things Bulma said,” he mutters, “it made me think I know little about… humans. They’re different from us Saiyans. They know love after all.”
“And we don’t?” Kakarot prompts, and Vegeta glances at him with a frown.
“No,” he says. “It was not common. I only know of two Saiyan pairings that were based on emotions. Neither made sense to me. We are not raised in particularly loving environments. It’s considered weak to feel things.”
Kakarot cocks his head to the side. “Are you saying that you want to learn more about how to fit in here on Earth?”
Vegeta doesn’t want to tell him the real reason. That he thinks that some sort of feeling outside of potentially lust for Kakarot is brewing. He’s still not convinced it’s not misguided jealousy, but Bulma’s words are haunting. But then, he doesn’t want to lie. He doesn’t lie. It’s not done.
Instead he doesn’t reply and just goes back to staring at the wooden table, his arms once again crossed as he leans back into his chair. He doesn’t feel at all at ease, but Kakarot doesn’t need to know that.
“Chi-Chi always use to tell me that love was knowing that no matter what, you have someone to count on, to believe in. That its unconditional and makes you feel good, makes you want to be better. That you trust someone no matter what.” He pauses to glance away out the window, and it’s not often that Vegeta gets to see Kakarot so serious and yet its the second time in hours that Kakarot is being so bold and honest. “She said its like your heart is telling you whats good for you.”
“That sounds wrong,” Vegeta comments with a frown, “your heart is an organ. It can’t speak, let alone have thoughts.”
Kakarot looks back at him with a smile. “I guess that’s why Saiyans never loved. We are too literal.”
Vegeta opens his mouth to reply but can’t find words. Kakarot isn’t wrong. That’s the thing, he’s not wrong but Vegeta doesn’t know if he’s right.
“And your woman,” Vegeta says, “you loved her?”
“She’s not mine anymore,” Kakarot corrects gently, “and truthfully I don’t know if she ever was. I failed her. I was never the one to count on. I think she wanted it more than I ever did.”
It interests Vegeta to see Kakarot like this. He knows that Kakarot is capable of love, he knows Kakarot’s parents. Bardock and Gine were anomalies amongst an entire race. Out of all the Saiyans, Kakarot would always be the one more capable of caring.
“And you?” he eventually asks, “what is your definition of love?”
Kakarot doesn’t answer immediately, which is more shocking that Vegeta expected. The silence is stifling, and Vegeta fidgets with his jumpsuit as he waits for a response.
“I’ll let you know when I know,” Kakarot eventually says and he gives Vegeta what can only be described as a sad smile. It ruffles Vegeta to see a man so constantly joyful look so… miserable.
They lapse into quiet once again. This time it’s bearable. A shared solitude as they listen to the waves lap, their hushed breathing, and Kakarot’s fingers tap gently on the wooden table. It’s a thoughtful silence, and Vegeta can feel a question bubbling in his throat that he doesn’t know if he wants to ask.
He thinks instead on Chi-Chi’s definition, and he’s mortified to think that maybe Kakarot fits that description. Someone to count on, to trust, to believe in. Someone who makes him want to be better. But then he thinks maybe that’s the feelings he should feel for a rival? For the first time he damns his Saiyan upbringing, and for the hundredth time he damns Frieza for destroying his race and planet and leaving him in this mess.
“Do you think we all deserve it?” Vegeta does ask in the end, unable to hold back the hard question. “This love?”
Kakarot surprises him by reaching out and placing his hand over Vegeta’s wrist, tugging it gently until Vegeta allows him to pull it away from his chest. It drops to the table with Kakarot’s firm grip holding it there, and his thumb starts to stroke Vegeta’s skin.
“You’re asking if you deserve it,” Kakarot says wisely, and Vegeta cannot meet his eyes. “You told me once, after Freiza, that you were made to be ruthless. That you could have been kinder and more merciful if not for him. You are that person. And that person deserves love.”
Vegeta sighs, a genuine sigh that he can’t hold back. “That’s a lie,” he says, allowing himself this moment of self pity, “people don’t change.”
Kakarot’s other hand ends up under his chin, tilting his head up until he’s forced to meet Kakarot’s eyes. When he does its to see a smile that’s small but meaningful, and Vegeta can’t deny the butterflies floating in his stomach.
“You did,” Kakarot tells him, “you changed.”
He doesn't see Kakarot for a long time after that. A month easily goes by with no contact. He spends it with his son mostly, watching Trunks grow with a delighted eye. He's tense about showing affection still, but he finds that his pride in his son is enough to go by at the moment.
Trunks is so different from him. So loud and brash, so much like his mother. Bulma appreciates how much time he's spending with Trunks, taking him for days at a time and leaving her to work. It's a team effort, something Vegeta isn't use to, but he's trying.
But with such a long time away from Kakarot it surprises him when he comes out of nowhere eventually.
It's a quiet evening. He's left Trunks with Bulma and disappeared to the nearby cliffs. He can feel Piccolo close by, lurking somewhere amongst the mountains, but neither one approach each other. There's not really any point.
He spends his time sitting and staring up at the sky. Vegeta has done it often, trying to pin point where all the planets are in the Earth sky, and he often stares longingly at the spot where Planet Vegeta should be. It's empty though, empty and sad, and while it use to make him angry it now just makes him wistful.
Of course it's right when he's feeling nostalgic that Kakarot appears behind him. It's sudden and makes Vegeta jump. He scolds himself later for being so easy to surprise, but he'd not been focusing on the world around him, let alone looking for power levels of nearby people.
"Nice evening, isn't it?" Kakarot asks as he flops down beside him, legs spread and wonky grin lavished on his face. Vegeta stares at him for a brief moment, admittedly captivated by the smile, before he turns back to the sky.
"Indeed," he agrees with a grunt. He decides not say anything else, waiting for Kakarot to cross that bridge, but after such a long silence he looks back over to see Kakarot staring forlornly at the ground. "Something's bothering you?" he asks cautiously, not too sure what response he's going to get.
A fake smile is what he gets, one that doesn't reach Kakarot's eyes as he leans forward to bump their shoulders. "Not at all," he says with false cheer right before losing his balance and face planting Vegeta's neck.
Vegeta can't stop the immediate blush at having Kakarot's face pressed to his skin, especially when Kakarot just lets out a startled noise but then doesn't move. In fact he just shuffles closer and settles his head against Vegeta's shoulder.
It's only then that Vegeta can smell Kakarot's breath, and he realises the man is completely drunk. He smells almost foul, the nasty twang of whiskey hot in the air, and a part of him feels revolted while the other part, the stronger part, is immediately concerned.
"Kakarot," he says firmly, not bothering to move the man to look at him, "what's wrong?"
He doesn't shown concern. That's not his prerogative. He's a Saiyan, careless and cruel, but he's never seen Kakarot so... low.
The self-deprecating laugh is even worse, and Vegeta winces at the noise. Especially with how wet it sounds, and he doesn't think he imagines the sudden dampness of the eyelashes fluttering against his neck.
"I fucked up my marriage," Kakarot says quietly, and that's honestly not where Vegeta thought this was going. "Did you know that? I've said it was a mutual agreement, but it wasn't. I fucked that up. Chi-Chi loved me unconditionally, and I was too pig headed to even realise that."
Vegeta genuinely doesn't know how to respond. He has to force down the panic brewing in his chest, the fight or flight feeling that's clawing at his throat, and he seeks desperately for words. He doesn't have to though as Kakarot starts up again, and he's hoping that all he has to do is just listen.
He can do that. He can listen.
"I'm always too busy saving the world or fighting in tournaments or bloody dying of all things. She needed the love and support of a husband and I never gave that to her," Kakarot continues sounding more forlorn by the minute. "She told me I'm too busy trying to be a hero that there's no time for anything else, and she was right."
She was, Vegeta agrees. But that is what this Earth needed, a hero, and Kakarot is strong and willing. Why could Chi-Chi not see that?
"You know, I prioritised this Earth over her every time. She would ask me to stay with her and I would turn her away, tell her the Earth needs me more than she did," Kakarot laughs albeit bitterly, "and then I could never understand why she'd reject me. She never rejected me, I always rejected her."
Vegeta doesn't speak, just hums in acknowledgement and let's Kakarot grip his hand. He doesn't hold it back, he's not ready for that, but he doesn't resist as Kakarot's thumb trails over the back of his hand.
"And the worst part?" Kakarot mumbles against Vegeta's throat, his breath hot and heavy, "the worst part is I was sent to destroy this planet, and yet I'm destroying those around me trying to save it."
Destroy it? Vegeta frowns and moves to look down at Kakarot, only seeing his black hair but it's still enough to stare at. Who told him he was to destroy this planet?
Of course, it was Raditz, he realises. Raditz, who was jealous of his parents affection for Kakarot. The kid brother who wasn't even out of his three year incubation and already his parents doted on him. Raditz never could understand his parents adored them both, never could see past that envy.
Finally Vegeta knows what to say. He doesn't know anything about Chi-Chi or relationships or whatever, he genuinely thinks he never will, but the truth and facts he can work with.
"You weren't sent to this planet to destroy it," he says quietly, and that's enough to make Kakarot's breath hitch and for him to move against Vegeta. "That was a lie. Raditz lied to you."
"Your parents knew about Frieza's plan to destroy our planet," Vegeta explains, feeling anger in every word and trying desperately to suppress it. "Raditz was already off world, he was with myself and Nappa. But you, you were still in your incubation tube when your father found out about Frieza. He tried to warn us all but no one would listen." He pauses as Kakarot shifts until he's sitting up, and Vegeta turns to look him in the eye as he continues. "When he told your mother they agreed to send you away to be safe. They couldn't come with you, we'd have been able to track them, but you were too small to register on our scouters. They sent you here to save you from the destruction."
Kakarot stares for a long time, eyes wide and his mouth slightly open. "How do you know this?" he mutters, quirking his head to the side. He still hasn't let go of Vegeta's hand, and Vegeta finds it in himself to give Kakarot a brief squeeze before explaining.
"I was with Raditz when your mother contacted him," he says. "We were on some planet, I can't remember it's name. It doesn't matter. She called him while your father was taking on Frieza and told him everything, told him where you were, told him to look out for you. She said her goodbyes to your brother while I was only feet away." He sighs. "Raditz never could understand your parents love for you. Saiyans don't love their children, it's not a done thing. He was born a Saiyan through and through, cold hearted and a killer. But you... he use to say you were weak like your mother. That you were never Saiyan enough. That your parents were more proud of a weakling over him."
"Like my mother?" Kakarot whispers so quietly that Vegeta almost doesn't hear him. Of course, he realises. Of course Kakarot has undoubtedly never heard of his parents. It's not like Raditz would've told him.
"Your mother was different from other Saiyans," he tells him, and his voice is as matter of fact as it can be. He never thought Gine should've been counted as a Saiyan, but Kakarot doesn't need to hear that. "She was too kind, full of emotions. She thought of other people before herself. Selfless, I believe it's called." He finally glances away from Kakarot to look back at the sky. "She was never cut out for fighting. Your father spent the time they were in the same team constantly saving her."
"And that made her weak?"
"For a Saiyan, yes," Vegeta replies. "Your parents formed a genuine bond. Your father use to be a perfect Saiyan, strong and cold, but your mother wore him down. I told you there were only two Saiyan pairings built on love," he drops his gaze to his lap. "Your parents were one of them."
"Raditz told you all this?"
Vegeta snorts and looks at Kakarot with a raised eyebrow. "Your brother was an intolerable egomaniac," he states, "had he spent time with your mother I believe he would've been better. Weak, but better. No, our fathers were close for a time. I met your mother the day you were born." He looks over Kakarot, looks at his hair and face, his body and stature. "You're the spitting image of your father," he says, "but you've got more of your mother in you."
Kakarot doesn't respond, just looks at him for a time before dropping his eyes to his lap. His hand slides out of Vegeta's, and as Vegeta flexes his fingers at the sudden loss of the weight Kakarot huddles into himself. Vegeta doesn't interrupt, it's a lot to take in no doubt, and he returns back to looking longingly at the sky as Kakarot sits quietly beside him.
Time inches by, speeding up as Vegeta starts to relax. At one point he glances over to see tears on Kakarot's cheeks, but neither does he acknowledge them or make a move to talk to Kakarot. He understands Kakarot's stoic personality, and so he just sits beside him offering silent company as Kakarot falls apart.
The sky is starting to lighten to a muted blue with early morning light when Kakarot finally moves. Vegeta hadn't realised just how much time had gone by. There's still hours until sunset, but he'd been sitting out in the cold with Kakarot for a long time now.
"I think I want to go home," Kakarot murmurs quietly beside him, Vegeta looks over to see Kakarot looking back with imploring eyes. "Help me?"
Kakarot never asks him for help, not as gently as this. It's the only reason why Vegeta is immediately standing and holding out his hand. No doubt Kakarot has sobered up by now, but he's still unstable on his feet as he takes Vegeta's offered hand and wobbles as he stands.
Vegeta doesn't say a word. He just slips his arm around Kakarot's waist and props him up as he takes to the sky. Roshi's house isn't far thankfully, and the two remain silent as they make their way towards the small island. It's not hard to manoeuvre Kakarot through the door when they get there, the house lit by a small lamp in the living room, and Vegeta silently thanks Roshi for having the forethought to leave some light for Kakarot. Navigating the house without it would've been a disaster.
When they get to Kakarot's room Vegeta lowers him to the bed and watches as Kakarot shucks off his boots and fidgets with his gi waistband until it finally unties. It's almost painful to watch this great warrior struggle so much, but Vegeta refuses to step in. The man needs to keep his dignity, and Vegeta has never been a caregiver anyway.
Once Kakarot is sprawled underneath the blankets with a happy sigh Vegeta goes to leave. He barely takes two steps though before Kakarot's hand is back on his wrist and he's being tugged back until the back of his thighs hit the side of the bed.
"Stay with me," Kakarot calls out, and Vegeta freezes at the words, his hands tightening into fists. "Please, I don't want to be alone."
It's a sentence that strikes deep in Vegeta. He may have the emotional capacity of a Saiyan, but he does understand loneliness.
And frankly he doesn't mind the prospect of joining Kakarot again. He still hasn't forgotten the warmth and safety from a month ago when they'd shared a bed, and that is really all it takes for him to sigh as he turns around.
It takes him moments to shed off his boots and jacket before sliding underneath the sheets that Kakarot is holding up. The smile he gets isn't overtly goofy, not like a usual Kakarot smile, but it's close enough as Kakarot drops the sheets and leaves his arm on Vegeta's waist.
He chooses not to say a word and lets Kakarot keep his arm there. Instead he burrows into the pillows and allows himself to spread out and nudge Kakarot's knee with his own, keeping them pressed together.
"Thank you, Vegeta," Kakarot whispers into the space between them, his breath fanning across Vegeta's face.
It makes him feel warm inside, something he decides to think about later. For now he's just going to enjoy the company of another in a bed, specially Kakarot in this bed.
"Goodnight, Kakarot," he murmurs back before closing his eyes.
It seems after that Kakarot believes he has an open invitation to intrude on Vegeta whenever he wants.
Bulma laughs at Vegeta when he mutters about it over breakfast one day, ruffling his hair and calling him silly. He bats her hand away angrily and pretends like he doesn't know why she's laughing.
She does tell him moodily one night before they go their separate ways to bed that if he doesn't sort it out already then she'll have to step in. There's some other comments about sexual tension and frustration, but Vegeta's ears are burning enough that he's sure he must've misheard her.
Truthfully, he really doesn't mind. Kakarot always seems to finding him during his 'brooding time', as its affectionately been nicknamed, and each time he always just settles down beside him and doesn't say a word.
At first Vegeta thinks it's strange. This man always gives a running dialogue of... well, everything, so the silence is unnerving. When he brings it up though, breaking the mutual quiet barrier, Kakarot just looks at him fondly.
"Because you appreciate the quiet," Kakarot tells him, "and sometimes that's all I want."
They don't talk after that. After all, Vegeta has always been a fan of not speaking unless there's something worthwhile saying. There's no point in wasting his breath on things he doesn't need to know about.
But he gets it. He gets the need for silence. The Z Fighters are a loud and boisterous bunch, to a fault that Vegeta hates, and if he can offer a little solace then that's okay with him. In any case, it helps him to think. Being around the subject of his thoughts, whilst often distracting, does help.
He admires Kakarot. The man is the best fighter he's ever laid eyes on, if he's being honest. There's a drive there that Vegeta respects and is envious of. Not in a vindictive way, such as how Raditz had felt towards his younger brother, but in self-improving way. He pits himself against Kakarot and finds himself wanting, but he inspires Vegeta's own drive to improve himself. To better himself.
He lingers on Kakarot's definition of love a lot in their time together. He doesn't honestly believe he's in love with Kakarot. There are definitely stirrings, feelings he's not sure how to define yet. There is a fondness on the surface level he'll admit to, but despite Bulma's pressure he is unsure if he wants to look deeper.
For now Vegeta is comfortable just with friendship. After all, he's not had many friendships before, especially not ones built on trust and respect. That's more of a foreign concept to him than love.
So his days pass by with Kakarot finding him on the odd one, and eventually it leads into sparring. Kakarot brings it up one day, mentions he'd like to vent his frustrations and Vegeta takes him up on the offer.
They are naturally a violent people, no one can deny that. But their sparring isn't intended to hurt, only to vent, and Vegeta enjoys the friendly competition as they spar day after day.
Then comes the day where Trunks wakes him up with a hiss and a roar, jumping on his bed and shaking him awake. Vegeta is proud of himself for not lashing out. He still gets jumpy over surprises, especially when he's been so vulnerable as to be asleep.
"Dad!" Trunks continues to call, even when Vegeta groans and rolls his back to his son. Trunks doesn't take that as a dismissal though as he flops over Vegeta's side and wriggles until his face is almost directly in front of Vegeta's. "Daaaaad,” Trunks whispers, poking Vegeta's cheek, and Vegeta sighs and opens his eyes to look at his grinning son.
"What?" he mutters, staring at the boy who just grins wider.
"Goten told me to tell you that Kakarot told Goten that he's coming to spar with you guys today and he told Goten to tell me to tell you to bring me too!"
The overtly complicated sentence gives Vegeta a headache immediately, and he stares stupidly at his son until he starts to see the excited grin start to slide off Trunks face.
"Unless you don't want me too," Trunks mumbles, looking down and starting to climb off the bed. Vegeta feels horrendously guilty, something that only his kid has ever achieved in making him feel, and with a groan he reaches out and yanks Trunks back into his chest.
"You're a brat," Vegeta scolds as he rolls on top of his squawking son who starts to giggle, "but your mother would kill me if I didn't take you."
Trunk continues to giggle, clearly not fazed at the comment, and Vegeta appreciates that his son just gets him.
When they turn up at the regular sparring grounds, a little crater not far from Piccolo's home, it's to see Kakarot standing with both his sons. All three start to wave, and while Vegeta doesn't engage in that behaviour Trunks starts to wave back frantically enough that Vegeta has to steady him lest he topple out of the air.
The three boys cluster together immediately, Gohan acting as a jungle gym as Goten and Trunks climb all over him, and Kakarot sidles up next to Vegeta.
"Thought it would be fun to involve the boys," Kakarot says, "I hardly get time with Goten since the break. This seemed-"
"You don't have to explain yourself to me, Kakarot," Vegeta replies, watching the three cackling across from them. "You've always been noble. I wouldn't expect any different."
It goes to show how much they've grown in the short time that Kakarot just gives him a wonky grin before stepping back and beckoning at him.
"Come on," he challenges, "shall we begin?"
Just like that it becomes routine. They still have days when it's just the two of them, but more often than not Trunks will wake Vegeta and demand to come along.
So they train, and Vegeta finds himself relaxing more and more as he realises that he's training with Saiyans again. They spar as themselves, in their Super Saiyan forms, two against one or, at one point, Kakarot and Vegeta versus their sons. It'd been a dirty and memorable fight, and for the first time in a long time Vegeta found himself genuinely laughing.
He'd also caught the look on Kakarot's face the first time he'd laughed, and he tries not to feel fuzzy over the wonder that had been there.
It's one day though that when Vegeta turns up with Trunks, this time firmly attached to his hip since he'd started to become more affectionate, he sees there's more than just Kakarot and his sons. Piccolo is standing with a fawning Gohan, Tien and Yamcha with Chiaotzu, Krillin and his Android wife, Buu and Satan of all people, and finally Kakarot is waving up at them with Goten on his shoulders.
Vegeta has to resist the urge to fly away the moment he deposits Trunk on the ground. Goten climbs down from his father and tackles his friend immediately, and Vegeta is tempted to leave Trunks in Kakarot's care while he bails.
He's foiled though by Kakarot slinging an arm around his shoulders and forcing him to touch down. He's shorter than Kakarot, something that's always bugged him, and he glares up at him whilst ignoring the rest of the crowd.
"What is this?" he grits out, knowing how hostile he sounds. Krillin steps forward with a smug look on his face, causing Vegeta to swing his head around and glare at the little man.
"Don't sound so excited, Vegeta, sheesh," Krillin comments, and Vegeta resists the urge to kick him across the mountains. It's a near thing. The only reason he doesn't is simply because he can't be bothered being on the end of Kakarot's disappointed look.
"Sorry, 'Geta," Kakarot says, scratching the back of his neck and smiling. Vegeta refuses to acknowledge what the nickname does to him. "I meant to tell you, I just... yeah. I thought we could do a make shift tournament? The others have been talking about how bored they are and I thought it would be good for the boys?"
Vegeta just glares at the imploring look Kakarot is sending his way, and he blows out a huff of air before turning to glare at his guilty son.
Of course Trunks knew. Vegeta bites back a groan.
"Fine," he says and he turns a smirk on Krillin as he cracks his knuckles, "who's first?"
Typically Krillin yelps and scurries behind his wife. Vegeta may feel out of control right now but at least Krillin's innate fear of him is consistent. He hides his snicker as he turns to look at Kakarot with a raised eyebrow.
It's a mutual agreement between everyone that Vegeta isn't allowed within a meter radius of Satan, which gets some grizzles from the man in question, but Vegeta is fine with that. He'd flick the man into the side of the mountain with his pinky before Satan threw the first punch.
But surprisingly it's Piccolo who steps forward for the first round. Vegeta quirks his head but rolls his shoulders in preparation. He's not too well experienced with Piccolo, so this should be interesting.
He's fast, Vegeta realises the moment Kakarot calls out for them to begin. It's takes him a moment to realise that, but he still manages to block the first blow before it lands. He gets a glimpse of Piccolo's face and there's a sly smirk there than makes Vegeta's eyes narrow. It's on, he thinks.
It's not an easy fight, but it's not hard. Piccolo is fast and lethe, not at all like the sheer power that a Saiyan has. He flitters around Vegeta throwing punches and kicks that he mostly deflects, and when Vegeta throws his own Piccolo can dodge them with ease. When he lands them though, Piccolo's grunts are loud enough to be heard around the mountains, and when Vegeta first gets a fist on Piccolo is starts to go downhill for the namekian.
After Piccolo it's a train. Yamcha, who Vegeta takes a certain delight in destroying, Krillin, who panics every time Vegeta raises an eyebrow, Tien, who gives Vegeta a slight challenge with his own raw power, The Android, who Vegeta thoroughly enjoys with her cold indifference, and finally Goten and Trunks at the same time.
Admittedly, Vegeta lets them win. He refuses to acknowledge though that it's because he likes the soft look on Kakarot's face when Vegeta is pinned underneath the two cackling boys.
When he gets a break he takes a short walk away to flop down on the grass. He's still close enough to hear everything as Piccolo and Yamcha step into the ring, but far enough away that he won't get hit by Yamcha's body when Piccolo no doubt destroys him.
What he's not expecting though is Gohan to sit down beside him.
"Hey Vegeta," the young man greets, and Vegeta can't help but stare at him. Gohan has always avoided him. He thinks it might have to do with the childhood trauma of being kidnapped, beaten, and turned into a giant monkey.
"Gohan," he replies stiffly. He turns back to the battle, unsure what to do. He fidgets with the grass beneath his gloves as he waits for the other shoe to drop, completely on edge.
"Stop worrying," Gohan chides, "I haven't come over here with ulterior motives. I just thought that we haven't talked in a while."
That makes Vegeta's eye twitch and all but confirm there is an ulterior motive.
"I just wanted to ask about this thing with you and Dad."
Vegeta almost chokes on his spit. "Thing?" he demands, staring back at Gohan with utter shock. The kid looks at him with a large grin, cocking his head to the side.
"Yeah, this dating not dating thing. I was hoping you could clear that up for me."
Vegeta is all but sure that he's about to choke and pass out on his own tongue. He has no idea what to tell Gohan, especially since even he doesn't know what this thing is between himself and Kakarot.
He'll admit that this is the first time in a very long time he's ever let someone so close. He's confided in Kakarot, and Kakarot in him. He's more open to physical affection, maybe because that's how Kakarot shows his fondness. Kakarot's smiles make his stomach roll and his heart beats faster at his laugh. Vegeta thinks he's foolish to even think that, but still, it's how he feels.
That's just it. How he feels. He's never been one for feelings and yet Kakarot stands here and makes him feel things he didn't know he could.
How the hell does he explain that to Gohan? Does he want to?
Vegeta hears Gohan clear his throat, and he looks over to see him smiling at him. It makes Vegeta nervous seeing such a soft look aimed at him and he shifts slightly away from Gohan.
"I can see even you don't know the answer," Gohan says, and he continues to surprise Vegeta by reaching out and placing a hand on his shoulder. "It's okay. I didn't think you would. Dende has told me things about Saiyans that I don't believe I’ll ever really understand. I consider myself lucky to be part human. At least that means I can have a good grip on what I feel."
Vegeta stares at him speechless. When did this kid get so wise?
Gohan smiles softly and continues. "But Dad was raised by humans. I don't think he's good with emotions, but I know he recognises them." He pauses and looks over to where Kakarot is cheering on Krillin as he joins Yamcha against Piccolo. "He's a dork, but he means well. Even Mum says that despite their break up."
He sighs and squeezes Vegeta's shoulder tightly before he shuffles closer, leaning in and holding Vegeta's gaze.
"I think he loves you," Gohan says sincerely, "and I think he's scared because he doesn't know how you feel. But I think you love him too."
"I-" Vegeta starts to say, wondering if he should deny or defend, but Gohan shakes his head.
"It's okay. I think it's been brewing for a while now. We all noticed when we were fighting Buu." He gives Vegeta’s shoulder another squeeze before dropping his hand. "I just wanted you to know that it's okay to go for it. Life's too short to be miserable. We all know that. So if Dad will make you happy, or you make Dad happy, then that's a good thing."
Vegeta openly gapes at Gohan, something he never does.
"That's just what I think, anyway," Gohan says as he stands up, brushing the grass from his pants. "And you don't have to listen to me, god knows you don't listen to anyone, but I think it's about time you have a bit of happiness too."
With that he smiles and offers his hand out to Vegeta, and Vegeta stares at it before something, something in him spurs him to reach out and take it.
"Now, I think it's our turn," Gohan says with a laugh, "I've been waiting all day to go against you."
Without letting go he tugs Vegeta the short way back to the others. Vegeta stumbles along in total shock, only snapping out of it when Gohan let's go and Kakarot sidles up beside him with a grin.
The sight of the man sends Vegeta's heart into a frenzy and he swears silently at Gohan for probably being bloody right.
The rest of the afternoon passes with more competition. The battle between Gohan and Vegeta is the longest, something that Vegeta chalks up to being distracted and the look on Gohan's face the whole time screams that he knows Vegeta hasn't got his head in it.
But at the end when they're all dispersing home to their families, with Gohan taking the boys, Kakarot stands beside Vegeta and slings an arm around his shoulders.
"So," Kakarot says, and Vegeta glances up at him to see his smile is soft and gentle, "back to mine for dinner? I've been practicing my cooking."
It's such a stupid and insignificant time, but it's that moment that Vegeta thinks that maybe, just maybe, he is in love with this man.
"Yeah," he replies, his own mouth curling into a smile that Kakarot looks overjoyed to see, "I think I'd like that."
Of all the things that can take Kakarot out, Vegeta never expected a grub to be one of them.
It's not even a notable one. Just some insignificant creature that decided Earth was a good stop over planet. Clearly part of refuelling his spaceship involved trying to kill the local hero before going on its merry way.
Vegeta doesn't think he'll ever forget the god awful feeling of Kakarot's ki stuttering. Sure, he's felt it like that before, but not here. Not now. Not when it's peaceful.
Not when Vegeta is standing miles away unable to do a damn thing as the feeling of loss and pain cracks across the sky like a bloody lightning rod.
He takes to the air the moment he feels it, bolting off the ground at Capsule Corp with little thought to his son and Bulma only meters away. Trunks cry of surprise is immediately silenced as Vegeta forces as much of his power into flying fast, needing to get to Kakarot as soon as possible.
It's not right. The feeling in the air as Kakarot's ki flickers is not bloody right.
When he lands at Kame House it's to see Kakarot standing with a goddamn arm through his chest. The grub is clicking it's pincers in delight as Roshi stands nearby with his mouth open. The surprise in Kakarot's eyes is what shocks Vegeta the most though, and he wonders just how the hell this hero was snuck up on.
The pincers on the end of the arm snap twice before the arm starts to pull back, and Kakarot's gasp, the flickering ki, and the sudden load of bloody falling from Kakarot's lips is enough to spur Vegeta into action.
It's obvious the grub is nothing as it only takes one single attack to decapitate the creature, it's arm falling completely out of Kakarot's chest as it crumples. Immediately Vegeta hurries to Kakarot's side, catching him as he drops and cradling him as close as he can.
"What the hell, Kakarot?" he snaps, one of his bare hands hovering over the gaping wound before he presses down hard on it. Kakarot cries out in pain, and Vegeta grits his teeth as he just pushes down harder.
"Wasn't expecting..." Kakarot starts to groan, his breath ragged as his hand comes up to cover Vegeta's, scrabbling as he tries to hold on. "Came... nowhere... shit."
"We have to get you to a hospital," Vegeta mutters as he struggles to think, "or at least Bulma's. She has her healing tank."
Kakarot's hand slaps against his face, and Vegeta stares at him with wide eyes. Kakarot grunts as he shifts, obviously short of breath as he shakily pats his cheek.
"It'll be okay," he grits out, and Vegeta looks up at Roshi. Roshi stares back for all of a moment before he turns tail to haul ass into the house.
"I'll let Bulma know you're on your way!" he calls out before the door slams shut behind him.
"Come on, Kakarot," Vegeta grunts as he heaves the man up, slinging his arm around Kakarot's waist and ducking under Kakarot's own arm. Kakarot barely supports himself and leans heavily on Vegeta as he slowly carries them both into the air trying not to jostle Kakarot too much. There's a large trail of blood behind them, and even if the tank heals up the gaping bloody hole in Kakarot's chest he's still going to need some rest to recovering from the sheer blood loss.
Somehow they manage to get to Capsule Corp in one piece. There's only one incident that leaves Kakarot almost in the ocean, and not for the first time does Vegeta grumble about how far out Kame House is. He can see specks of people rushing around as they start to descend, and he spots Bulma's head of blue hair as she waves frantically up at him.
"Almost there, Kakarot," he mutters, and Kakarot let's out a vague affirmative groan, "you've had worse. You can do this."
It's true. Kakarot has had worse. But if Kakarot was taken by surprise like he said then obviously neither him not his ki were prepared for a bloody arm through his bloody chest.
The moment he touches down Gohan comes barreling out of nowhere and shuffles under his fathers other side as Bulma starts to rush them towards her healing tank. Vegeta keeps his hand tightly pressed to Kakarot's wound the whole way, refusing to remove the pressure before they get him in the tank. He's shocked when another hand joins his and he glances over to see it's Gohan's as the boy gives him a firm nod.
"Jeez, Dad," Gohan clucks as they stumble into one of Bulma's labs. "We can't leave you alone for five minutes, can we?"
"Sorry," Kakarot mumbles, his face pulled up into a tired smile, and he looks right at Vegeta for a long moment before promptly passing out.
"Too much blood loss," Bulma states as she hauls open the tank lid, shifting slightly so Gohan and Vegeta can lift Kakarot in. His dead weight is worse, and the two of them let out a handful of grunts as they settle him down.
The moment the lid is slammed shut and the tank starts to beep, signifying the start of a healing cycle, Vegeta slumps to the ground in a kneel and let's himself pant. Hauling Kakarot across the sea with the sheer amount of terror he feels is no easy feat, and he huffs at the ludicrousness of the moment.
He glances up when a hand settles on his shoulder to see Bulma and Gohan looking down at him with worry. Bulma squeezes tightly as she crouches down, and Gohan hovers over the two of them.
"Are you alright?" she asks, eyes wide. "Roshi said you were terrifying. He's never seen you so angry."
"We could feel your ki from here," Gohan chimes in, "I half expected you to be in SS3 when you turned up."
Vegeta stares at them both in surprise. "It was a grub," he says with disgust, "nothing that we can't easily take."
"Vegeta," Bulma interrupts sternly, "that was a grade four grub. And you decapitated it with one blow. Not even Kakarot can do that."
A grade four? No wonder Kakarot didn't expect it. Those blasted things can hide their own signatures until they choose to reveal themselves. He's gone against them before when he was with Frieza's army and watched one easily wipe out a squadron of soldiers.
"No," Vegeta denies, shaking his head, "I couldn't have killed it that easily were it a grade four."
"Well you did," Gohan says, and then there's a cheeky smile on his weary face that makes Vegeta glare. "Maybe it's to do with-"
"If you say anything about feelings I will hurt you," Vegeta admonishes, and both Bulma and Gohan chuckle to themselves. Vegeta glares even harder at their insolence and let's out an undignified huff.
"Sorry, Vegeta," Bulma laughs completely unapologetic, "its true though. You know what they say about mothers becoming stronger when their children are in danger."
"Are you saying I think of Kakarot as a mother does a child?" Vegeta asks, genuinely feeling scandalised.
"Of course not," she replies, scratching the back of her head, "I just mean, you know, you love-"
Vegeta scowls hard enough that it cuts her off. He will not tolerate this. Yes, he may have some feelings that harbour on love for Kakarot, but he's not fully admitted it to himself yet. No one else is going to beat him to that.
"Anyway," Bulma continues after a stilted moment, "I'm just going to let the others know it's all under control."
She leaves without another word, hastily exchanging a smile with a Gohan as she goes. Vegeta ignores her completely as he shuffles on his knees to lean back against the healing tank. He stretches out his legs and crosses his arms as he settles in to wait. He has no intentions on leaving until Kakarot wakes up.
"This seems familiar," Gohan comments, gesturing vaguely at them, and Vegeta is reminded of a time on Namek where they were in this same position. He looks up to see Goham smiling softly.
Strangely enough, he does feel a slight fondness for the boy in front of him, especially now when all they need is Krillin to reenact this scene. Gohan had only been a child then, and Vegeta does admit the boy has grown well, especially into such a strong warrior.
He offers a small tight lipped smile back, something that evidently surprises Gohan.
"Indeed," he comments before dropping his head back again and closing his eyes. He can hear the shuffle of uncertain feet before Gohan leaves the room after Bulma, and Vegeta waits until he can feel him far enough away for him to let out a long deep breath.
"A bloody grub, huh, Kakarot? A bloody grub," he mutters before he doses off quietly.
He's woken rudely hours later by the tank beeping frantically as the healing cycle ends. He glances up in time to see the lid hissing open and Kakarot sitting up before Vegeta gets up in a flurry to place a steadying hand on Kakarot's back.
"Whoa there, Kakarot," he mutters as Kakarot looks at him in surprise, "take it easy. You know how light headed these things make you."
"'Geta?" Kakarot says, cocking his head in surprise before smiling. "You're still here."
"Someone had to make sure you actually healed," Vegeta states as he perches on the edge of the tank, still not moving his hand. "You're a complete idiot. Who knows what you'd do."
Kakarot's smile doesn't waver once, and Vegeta feels a little warm under the collar as Kakarot leans forward to press his forehead to Vegeta's chest.
"That felt close," he says, muffled by the fabric, "too close. I didn't even see it before it attacked."
Vegeta stares down at the mop of black hair and feels uncertain as he reaches up to place his hand on top of it, wincing when he notices it's still covered in blood.
It serves as a reminder of what he almost just lost.
“Yeah,” he agrees quietly. “That was close.”
Kakarot looks up at him with a small smile, his eyes half closed from tiredness but his smile still bright nonetheless.
“Careful, Vegeta,” he hums, making Vegeta squirm a little as the vibrations of his voice rumbles across his chest. “Someone might start to think that you have feelings for me if you keep up this act.”
“Act?” Vegeta can’t stop himself from asking, wishing he could wrench those words back as Kakarot’s smile gets bigger.
“This hero act,” he practically whispers. “It’s endearing, you know. Makes me think that you care for me.”
“I do care for you,” Vegeta immediately responds, and promptly turns bright red at he realises what he says. He’s too busy wrapped up in his embarrassment though to notice Kakarot’s face brighten as he starts to move. Instead he focusses on his stupidity and promptly backtracks.
“You do-” Kakarot starts to say and Vegeta cuts him off.
“In a platonic way,” he insists, “who would look after your dumb ass if it weren’t me?”
There’s something that looks like disappointment on Kakarot’s face but Vegeta doesn’t read into it. Kakarot wouldn’t be disappointed at hearing that Vegeta seems them as friends, right?
“And they say I’m thick-headed,” Kakarot mutters, and Vegeta frowns at the statement but doesn’t question it as Kakarot leans back against him with a sigh.
He can’t stop his other hand from coming up to wrap around the back of Kakarot’s neck to hold him in place. The hand on Kakarot’s back balls into the tattered remains of Kakarot’s gi, and Vegeta holds his breath as he tightens his grip on Kakarot.
Kakarot doesn’t resist though, just sighs again as he turns his forehead to press against Vegeta’s neck and his hands settle in Vegeta’s lap.
Vegeta tries not to think what this would look like to another if they walked in. He tries not to think about what this could be if Kakarot wanted it. If he admitted it.
Dammit, thoughts and feelings are too hard. Vegeta grits his teeth and pushes all thoughts to the back of his mind and looks down at the mop of black hair tickling his chin.
"I should let the others know you're awake," he says hesitantly, not wanting to break the moment they’re having. He has to say he enjoys the solidarity, and the hot breath of Kakarot's across his chest is making his heart beat that little faster. He wonders briefly if Kakarot can hear it, and he wonders if he should be embarrassed?
"No," Kakarot mumbles, pulling his head back from Vegeta's chest and look up at him with imploring eyes. "No, just take me home please."
Vegeta meets his eyes and finds that he can't look away. He should go tell the others, give Bulma a chance to fuss and Gohan a moment to reassure himself that his father isn't a bloody corpse.
But he finds he can't deny Kakarot this.
"Okay," he agrees despite all the logic.
The blinding smile he gets makes the upcoming scoldings worth it.
The scoldings come sooner than he thought, and from someone he genuinely never expected to talk to in his lifetime.
He's sitting at the kitchen table Bulma had insisted on buying only a few weeks ago, staring out at the newly decorated courtyard. It's bright and cheery this time instead of Art Deco, something that Vegeta has never understood, and he can't decide whether he likes the garden or wants to destroy it piece by piece.
It doesn't matter after all. His thought process is ruined the moment the kitchen door opens and Chi-Chi storms in.
He can't find words, just stares at her as she stomps across the kitchen and flops down on the chair across from him. Her glare is something that legends would be made about, and Vegeta barely suppresses the urge to run the hell away.
Not a word is said between them, just an awkward staring contest as Chi-Chi sits with her arms crossed and Vegeta with his hands wrapped around a long cold mug of coffee. The silence is tense and so thick that Vegeta thinks he could suffocate in it.
Eventually he cracks, mainly because he wants to know what the hell is going on? Kakarot's ex-wife storming into his kitchen and sitting across from him is rarer than anything he's ever come across.
"Hel-" he starts to say, only for Chi-Chi to hold up her hand, silencing him.
"Don't speak," she snaps, "don't say a word. You're here to listen. And you will wait in silence until I figure out just what to say."
Strange is a complete understatement. Vegeta doesn't argue with her nevertheless, in fact he's happy not to say a word at all. He doesn't know how to talk to this woman, so it's probably best for him to stay quiet. He looks away from her though and back out the window. She can take her time. He doesn't care.
Unfortunately take it she does and time ticks by at a slow and dreadful pace. Just to have something to do he swallows a mouthful of coffee that Bulma had given him hours ago and cringes at the taste. It's cold and has too much sugar. He pushes it away and crosses his arms.
"Vegeta," Chi-Chi eventually says, and slowly he looks up to see that her gaze has softened and her hands are now folded in front of her on the table. "I want to say something."
He doesn't respond, just raises an eyebrow as he waits. Even if he told her he doesn't want to hear anything he has no doubts she would tell him anyway.
"As you know, Goku and I are... no longer together," she says, looking like the words leave a bad taste in her mouth. "I don't believe we were ever that compatible. I think I just wanted us together so bad that I didn't stop to think about his personality."
She glances at him, almost like she's waiting for a comment, but when Vegeta gives her nothing she sighs and carries on.
"He's brash," she states, "an idiot of a hero who is both selfless and selfish at the same time. He's a Saiyan. He thinks of only fighting and growing stronger." She pauses and turns her gaze to the window. "He's a good father. That I'm glad of. But he's a terrible husband. He's been killed three times, you know?" She looks back at him with hurt eyes. "Three times I've lost my husband. Our marriage was legally over after the first, but I wonder to myself if it was really over before that.”
Even if he knew what to say, Vegeta wouldn't speak. No doubt she wouldn't appreciate any false sentiments no matter how much he tried to mean them.
Chi-Chi sighs and looks at her hands. "So imagine my surprise," she continues, "when I realise that after we officially broke up, he's happier than ever. I thought at first it was the freedom, but he still spent so much time with us despite moving to Master Roshi's. Then I thought it was that he could focus more on fighting and training, but he never increased the amount he was doing. Then I thought maybe, maybe it was me that he was thankful to be rid of?" She gives him a rueful smile. "But then he's not left me alone."
Vegeta stares and waits with baited breath. He's hopeful, he can't deny it, especially when Chi-Chi's eyes soften and she reaches out to touch his arm.
"It was you," she says, her voice loud and thunderous to Vegeta's ears. "Of course it was you. He's spends so much time with you. With you and the boys and he has the family that he's wanted. He doesn't want a human lifestyle. Goku has never been one to come home and sit down and relax. He's always moving, always doing things or fighting someone or just living."
Her hand is tight as she pulls apart his arms and takes his hand. He doesn't hold it back, he doesn't know her, but he lets her squeeze it as much as she likes.
"And so are you," she murmurs. "You're just the same. I thought he hated you, but I was blind. He loves you, has for a long time. And I know you love him too."
Vegeta splutters, genuinely splutters as he shakes his head. "No," he denies, even though the lie tastes wrong in his mouth. "I could never-"
"Oh shut up," Chi-Chi snaps, straightening her back and reaching into her pocket. She pulls out a handful of paper and throws them on the table.
On closer inspection he realises they're photos, and as he scans them he notices they're all of the grub from yesterday. The damn grub that almost killed Kakarot. He feels a hot flash of anger brewing in his stomach before he remembers it's dead, this thing is dead and Kakarot is alive and it's okay.
"It's a grade four," Chi-Chi says. "I'm not stupid. I know a grade four grub when I see it, and so do the others. You took it out with one hit, Vegeta. With enough ki behind it that Goten just about destroyed the roof in his fright when he felt it."
Vegeta still can't find words, and he thinks that this is probably the longest he's been without having the urge to refute what someone is saying. It makes him nervous as he looks at the strong woman in front of him.
"If that's not love, then I don't know what is," she says simply, daring him to challenge her. He just stares, watching for her next words but she seems to be done. She leans back in her seat and raises an eyebrow, a cue for him to speak.
"You... condone this?" he finally asks.
"Condone implies it's wrong," she says immediately. "There's nothing wrong with this. Surprising? Yes. But wrong? No. I accept it. We all accept it. It's time you bloody accept it and do something about it."
Vegeta doesn't want to accept what she's saying, waiting for the other foot to drop, but as the silence stretches out between them he thinks that maybe... maybe that won't happen. Maybe she's sincere in what she's saying.
If she is, if she's truly sincere, then Vegeta might just let the swelling of hope in his chest come out.
"Don't be human about it," Chi-Chi says after such a long time that Vegeta nearly jumps at the sudden noise, "after all, if he wanted human he'd still be with me." She says it so matter-of-fact that it's not offensive. It's the truth. Pure and simple. "But you're a Saiyan. You're all actions and fights, not words. And so is he. If anyone can really connect with him, it's someone who's at least on the same wavelength."
Vegeta is surprised to feel himself nodding slowly, although the satisfied look on her face makes him think it's the right thing to do. She's right, in any case. Vegeta never has had a good grasp on words. Even before the trauma of Frieza, back when he was a kid on Planet Vegeta, he was taught to use actions over conversation.
He watches as Chi-Chi stands up, clearly deciding the conversation is over. He doesn't mind. She's given him things to think about, and he'd rather do that in the quiet.
"Oh," Chi-Chi calls out though as she hovers in the doorway, "and Vegeta?" She waits until he looks at her, and he sees a small smile on her face as she talks over her shoulder. "Just remember, you may not think it, but you are a Z Fighter. We all want what's best for you. You're family, no matter what."
She walks out, leaving Vegeta staring at the spot she's been trying to think past the racing thoughts in his head.
He stays still for so long trying to think, trying to marry up everything Chi-Chi said with all that's been said by the others. Trying to think past the emotion to the cold hard facts as he lays it out.
Everyone seems convinced it's not a one sided thing. Truthfully Vegeta has to wonder if it's an any sided thing. He feels perpetual as he constantly changes his mind. He can’t deny that... he's in love with Kakarot. He can't. He's admitted it to himself already, but there's always that hesitant "what if" hovering in the back of his mind.
What if he gets hurt? He knows that’s stupid for a Saiyan Prince of all people to worry about getting hurt, but a small squashed down part of himself, the part he's repressed for years, continues to rear its ugly head and throw doubts at him.
It's not until hours after Chi-Chi has left, hours of sitting in one spot staring into space, that Vegeta finally gets what she meant.
He's thinking too much. He's thinking about this and factoring possibilities and outcomes. He's thinking about what to say and what to do, and deciding it might be too hard. He's thinking too damn much.
Vegeta is a Saiyan. A man of action. Not bloody thought.
He stands up so quickly that his chair lands with a crack on the floor, the first sound in the room for hours. He doesn't stop to pick it up though and he wrenches himself away and bursts through the door to the living room.
He's unsurprised to see Bulma and Trunks, but he pays them no mind besides a small smile their way as he rushes out the front door. Of course, he still catches Bulma encouraging whoop, and he wonders if everyone was in on the bloody intervention?
He takes to the air the moment he can, blasting as much power into his flight as he can. He tears across the sky to Kame House with the blood rushing in his ears and his heart beating furiously up into his throat.
Don't think, just do, he tells himself repetitively as he get closer and closer, and soon the little island is in sight and Vegeta can feel Kakarot's ki hidden away in the house below.
He hadn't anticipated that Kakarot could feel his though, especially with how powered up he currently is, and the moment he touches down on the sandy lawn Kakarot bursts out of the house with a small crowd behind him and worry itched on his face.
"Vegeta, what's wrong?" he demands as he steps forward, "what's happened?"
Vegeta doesn't respond, just starts forward and marches across the lawn. Just do, he tells himself, stop thinking and just do.
The moment he's close enough his hand shoots out and grabs the front of Kakarot's gi, wrapping tightly in the orange material before he yanks Kakarot a step forward. His other hand comes up to steady Kakarot by the waist, and with a strong tug he pulls Kakarot down to his height.
He has a brief moment of looking into Kakarot's surprised eyes before he closes his and slams their lips together.
The noise Kakarot makes is delicious, and Vegeta's hands tighten as he moulds himself against Kakarot's front, pushing every feeling he has into this singular kiss, desperate to tell Kakarot how he feels and telling him in the way he knows how.
When Kakarot's hands settle on his hips, large and firm, Vegeta tries not to melt and fails completely as Kakarot knocks down that last barrier and returns the kiss with such a ferocity that puts Vegeta to shame.
Eventually they do have to separate though. When they do it's with heavy gasps and jelly like legs, and Vegeta leans heavily on Kakarot as he looks up at the stupidly large grin on the man's face.
"Finally," Kakarot says between pants, and Vegeta frowns, "I wondered how long it was going to take you. Piccolo volunteered to do the next intervention. I don't know how that would've turned out."
Vegeta stares at him with a wide mouth, unimpressed at the sheer mirth in Kakarot's eyes, and he glances over Kakarot's shoulder to see Piccolo staring right back with a raised eyebrow.
It clicks into the place. They were all in on it. They all knew. There was only one person who’d been stopping this whole bloody thing this whole time.
"Oh, you bastard," Vegeta mutters, and he glares at Kakarot as he starts to laugh hard, shaking Vegeta's body in his joy.
"Says the drama queen," Kakarot snorts, and before Vegeta can respond Kakarot swoops back in for another kiss, lifting Vegeta off the ground as he does so.
Vegeta refuses to squawk in indignation, and instead focuses on smacking Kakarot's chest and trying to dominate the kiss.
Kakarot's laughter is infectious though, and despite how hard he tries, Vegeta can't stop his own grin at he kisses this ridiculous Saiyan, kisses as hard as he can and pours all of his feelings into it.
It’s at that point, that time, that moment, when Vegeta is wrapped up in Kakarot’s arms with the crowd of Z Fighters cheering behind them that Vegeta realises one thing.
He’s not alone. He never will be.
This lot won’t leave him alone to do so.
When he pulls back again and looks at Kakarot, looks at the sheer joy and love beaming from the man, Vegeta shares a small smile with him, something secret and sincere.
This man won’t leave him.