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Something Borrowed, Something Black and Blue

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She thumbs over to the next bit, and on her tablet screen 18 gleefully mashes a handful of $20,000 cake into her new husband's face. Well, "gleeful" is a bit of a stretch. In the picture, 18's wearing her trademark expression of perpetual boredom, but there's a gentle lilt to her eyes that speaks of the kind of happiness most people dream about. And for someone who'd been built to be subsumed into a walking nature show nightmare, it was more than a dream. It was an impossibility made real.

Bulma sends it to her lab printer to be printed and framed for them. Then she sends herself a reminder to actually do it.

"She looks happy."

Startling, Bulma cranes her head to glance over her shoulder to the back of the couch where Trunks is perched, a considering look in his eye as he takes in the image on her tablet.

"What have I said about sneaking up on people?"

"Do it a lot because it's funny?"

"Yeah, but I didn't mean do it to me too," she says, turning back to the screen, tumbling to the next slide, grinning at Krillin, who's open-mouthed laughter is frozen in time, white and pastel blue frosting smeared over his forehead and lashes. "This was such a fun time."

Trunks climbs down from the back of the couch and nearly takes out one of her kidneys with his knee as he clambers into her lap, his back to her chest, her bent knees fitted to the backs of his, his head tucked under her chin—his favorite position, because what else are moms good for but to be living furniture?

She shifts the tablet to rest against his legs so they both can see. The next image is one of the professional shots—Krillin and 18 in a vintage-looking, sun-soaked backdrop, her blonde hair nearly as white as her gown, contrasting beautifully with Krillin's grey pinstripe suit.

Krillin's smile almost splits his face as 18 bends to press her forehead to his, their fingers tangled between them, the dying sun catching the pearl comb that sweeps 18's hair into an elegant twist.

It's so beautifully composed, staged so genuinely; the fee Bulma paid for the photographer had been well worth it.

She sighs and presses her cheek to the top of Trunks' hair. "They look so beautiful."

"Isn't it weird that he doesn't have a nose?"

"Trunks—"

"I mean, did it get cut off or—"

"I've never asked," she says, but she's going to. Now she has questions.

She swipes to the next image. 18 stands alone, her body lean and effortlessly graceful in repose. The train of her dress is draped to puddle around her while her face is angled away from the camera, disappearing into the liquid red-orange of the sun. She looks vulnerable, contemplative, a goddess bathing in light for the pleasure of greedy eyes. "Gorgeous." 

"Where are your wedding pictures?" Trunks lifts his head, staring at her nearly upside down. "You probably look just as nice."

She huffs. "'Probably,' huh?"

"Well, she is younger than you—"

"Just so you know, I'm not above killing and eating my young." Bulma makes a face and swipes to the next shot. She and Chi-Chi flank 18 in their bridesmaids dresses—deep red with a giant bow on the right shoulder large enough to warrant its own damn dress. It had been a serious improvement over the ones 18 had to be talked out of. Bulma will never understand designer fashion.

"Well?"

"Hm?" Oh, right. "Oh, I don't have wedding pictures."

Trunks shifts like he's about to try and twist to face her. "Why not?"

"Papa and I never got married."

"You didn't? I thought—but why?"

"Trunks, it's fine," she soothes, lifting a hand to curve his cheek, settling him back down. "It's just never come up."

He's not to be deterred though. Damn saiyan stubbornness. "But people get married when they're in love with each other."

"Not quite true—"

"Don't you love papa?" 

She chuckles. "Of course I do."

"And papa loves you, right?"

Uh. "Uh."

"Mama!"

"I'm kidding. Of course he does, sweetie." She's 40% sure, at least.

She forestalls any further questions by swiping to the next image, which brings a grin to her face. It's a little blurry, like whoever was taking the shot had been terrified, and she can see why: the appetizer table is being carted away by one determined, lavender-haired little boy in a hideous orange blazer.

"That was ugly," Trunks grumbles, squeezing her knees with his. "Why'd you make me wear it?"

"Sorry, kiddo, but that was the style. A short-lived fad, thank god, but 18 insisted. You know how she is about keeping up with the latest fashion. Blame her."

"She'd kill me." Probably. "How old was I?"

Bulma does some quick math. "Hm… you'd just turned four. Do you remember what happened next?"

He giggles. "Yamucha tried to stop me and—"

"You creamed him with the table!" Bulma presses her laughter into his hair, nuzzling it a little. Once upon a time, it would have smelled like baby shampoo and sunshine; now it smells like sweat and the stale air of the gravity simulator.

"I wish papa had been there to see it," Trunks says.

"You wish he had been there to see what?"

Bulma and Trunks both look up from the tablet to see Vegeta standing in the doorway, the roadmap of his scars glistening with sweat, skin flushed with exertion, and Bulma allows herself a slow once-over. He may be a first-class asshole, but damn.

"Hi, papa!" Trunks trills, wriggling a little in Bulma's lap.

Vegeta gives her a severe look. "What have I told you about coddling the boy?"

Over Trunks's head, she sticks her tongue out at him. "Hanging out with my son is not coddling. We're having deep, philosophical discussions about 18's questionable taste in fashion."

"Feh." Vegeta snorts, taking a few steps closer. Bulma has to stop herself from reminding him that it's okay to get within ten feet of them; contrary to what he might believe, they aren't contagious. "As if that washing machine knows what pleases the eye."

"This coming from the guy who thinks unitards are the height of fashion," Bulma grumbles.

Vegeta narrows his eyes at her and opens his mouth to no doubt let some truly inspired snark fly, but his gaze catches on the tablet in Bulma's hands. "What is that?"

"Krillin and 18's wedding," Trunks says, taking the tablet from her and waving it. "Papa, how come you and mama never got married?"

Something like panic flashes in Vegeta's eyes and he flicks a hunted look at Bulma, who's almost content to sit back and let him field this, but considering they live in a heavily populated area that wouldn't survive the fallout, she brushes it off with an airy wave of her hand. "Kiddo, I already told you." 

Trunks tilts his head back and looks at her upside down. "Yeah, but aren't you worried that he's gonna find a young, hot floozy and run off with her because you didn't snap him up first?"

It's the funniest goddamn thing she's ever heard in her entire life and she lets them both know it by cackling. "Oh my god, where did you come up with that?"

Trunks shrugs. "Goten's mom."

Thanks a bunch, Chi-Chi. "If papa finds someone else to put up with his crap, more power to them."

Vegeta sucks air through his teeth, but says nothing.

"But what if you find someone else?" Trunks climbs out of her lap and plops into the seat next to her, staring up with wide, worried eyes. "Goten's mom said that papa obviously doesn't—doesn't recognize a good thing and that there was nothing stopping you from finding someone better."

"What?" She laughs.

"What." Vegeta growls.

Trunks nods. "Mm. She said papa had nothing to offer you—"

Vegeta looks apoplectic. "What."

"—but who's better than papa?"

Bulma purses her lips thoughtfully. "Well, I hear that Lennox Matthews is single again…"

"What?!" Any more and the pulsing vein in Vegeta's forehead is finally going to explode.

Lennox Matthews is the world's most famous TV personality, who once said during a CNS News exclusive watched by 13 million people that he was in love with Bulma Briefs and would someday make her his. Bulma has the video clip saved on her phone and watches it occasionally when she needs a laugh, usually before meetings with the Capsule Corp board to discuss her latest overload of the northern hemisphere's power grid.

Vegeta saw it once. They had to get a new TV. And a new wall.

"Mama," Trunks whines. "Be serious."

"Oh, kiddo. I told you: I love papa very much and I've no intention of finding anyone else. What would I do with someone who actually thanked me for inventing things to help make them stronger, anyway?" She cuts a sly glance at Vegeta, who mutters something mutinously under his breath.

His breath whooshing out of him in a single go, Trunks's shoulders deflate in relief, and he beams up at her. "I'm glad I don't have to pretend to be nice to a boring stepdad."

"You're such a weirdo." Bulma swoops in quickly to press a kiss to his hairline. He could easily dodge it, but even with his token protest about being too old for forehead kisses, he looks brighter than he did minutes ago.

"I've gotta tell Goten that you're not getting divorced and marrying a man twenty years younger than you," Trunks announces, bouncing off the couch and rushing past Vegeta. He disappears around the corner with a small boom of displaced air.

"Tell Chi-Chi that I will be calling her very soon!" Bulma shouts after him, then slumps back with a sigh. "He definitely gets the whole 'fixating on the stupidest shit' thing from you."

Vegeta drums his fingers over a spandex-clad thigh and says nothing.

She squints at him. "You've got that look."

"What look," he demands. "I don't have a look."

"Yeah, you really do." She waves a hand in his direction. "You hear something that makes you feel feelings and your brain crashes because of the conflicting messages, so then you reboot—"

"For how long are we stretching this metaphor, exactly?"

Bulma grins, reaching for the tablet and opening the rest of the wedding photo album. "I was getting to a really good part about temporarily disabling software."

"You're not funny."

"Incorrect: I'm hilarious." She scrolls until she gets back to where they had been—Trunks stealing the appetizer table—and swipes through. Yamucha rushes into the frame, hands raised and a mild expression on his face, and the photographer proved his worth with a perfectly captured shot of Yamucha's look of horror as the blur of the table came swinging at him.

She's going to have that one framed, too.

"It's a stupid, farcical custom."

"Hm?" She swipes to a shot of the dance floor, Chi-Chi shimmying circles around everyone there.

"A… the marriage ceremony."

At that, she stops. "What?"

Shifty-eyed, Vegeta snarls, cheeks red, "You heard me! What idiot parades themself around in such a manner? To what, satisfy some foolish idea that your backwater society forces upon—"

"Vegeta," Bulma starts slowly. This day has taken a turn for the positively wacky. "Have I ever once dropped hints that I wanted to get married? I mean, don't get me wrong, it'd be fun to have the party and wear the dress, and I'd be proud to be your wife, but I know what to expect from you."

Something dangerous flashes in his gaze. "Excuse me?" 

If she had any self-preservation instincts at all, she'd stop there and bring up dinner, but it's always fun to piss him off just a little more than she should. The resulting sex is usually spectacular. "Don't get all huffy. I just meant that you're off the hook. You weren't ever on the hook. I'd never make you partake in such a stupid, farcical custom. Anyway, I was thinking maybe ordering from that churrascaria steakhouse place for dinner—the one with the parmesan lombo? You really liked their filet mi…gnon..."

Well. She thought she had all of his crazy-eyed stares memorized and appropriately named, but this one… It's maybe a cross between 'I'm going to atomize you and laugh maniacally as I do' and 'You should've been naked ten seconds ago', but somehow something completely new.

She clears her throat. "So… dinner?"

Blinking, Vegeta startles out of whatever reverie he fell into, then sneers wordlessly at her as he turns on his heel and leaves.

"Fine! Go ahead and starve," she calls after him with an eye roll, then goes back to the wedding album.

Fucking saiyans.

 

+

 

It catches the light when they hand it to her, a blinding flash like a ki blast, like a planet's core on the verge of exploding , and she takes it from them with gentle, reverent hands. It shouldn't be so easy to hold the culmination of years of research, a truly terrifying amount of experimental coding, who knows how many caffeine pills, and seventeen straight months of beta testing, but her Belnob Award fits between her palms like she'd been born to hold it.

"Thank you," she says shakily, genuinely, into the microphone to thunderous applause. "This is a dream come true, honestly. Oh my goodness, there are so many people to thank. I know I've got a minute to do this, so I'm just going to run through the list. First and foremost, I have to thank—"

Except someone fires a shotgun round right above her head and, amid the sprinkling of plaster and dust, she tangles her feet in the sheets and goes down ass-first, hard. Trembling, heart fixing to crack a rib, she lowers her arms from where they're curled protectively around her head and looks up from the floor.

Vegeta stands at the foot of the bed, frowning.

"WHAT THE FUCK, VEGETA!" Bulma attempts to get to her feet and find the ki gun she's been working on to blast him through the fucking window, but the sheets are still coiled around her ankles and she belly flops onto the floor like an idiot.

"Once you remember there's actual grey matter somewhere in that skull, get your ass up and call Kakarot's shrieking harridan. I'll explain Phase One when I come back."

Wordless with rage, she watches him swan out of the room just as Trunks comes running in.

"Mama, I heard a huge bang! Are you okay?"

Trunks helps unwind the sheets from her ankles and steadies her when she gets to her feet. She opens her mouth to thank him, because he's a good boy unlike some assholes she could name, but his attention is arrested by something behind her.

Turning, she looks up and blinks. "What the hell did he do?"

Her boy floats above the bed and peers intently at the enormous hole in the wall, reaching into it with the fearlessness that comes with being a curious, half-saiyan child. His features twist in confusion and he withdraws his hand, bringing out with it an enormous—

"Mama, he threw a rock at your head!"

Not just any rock, but what looks to be a five-pound misshapen thing dug straight out of the earth, glassy and perfectly clear. It catches a thin beam of sunlight streaming through a crack in the blinds and an explosion of color assaults her eyes. Trunks murmurs in awe as pinks and greens and yellows and blues dance their way over the wall.

Bulma stares at the prism in Trunks's hand and then, utterly numb, reaches for her phone on the nightstand, dialing the second number in her list.

"This'd better be Goku calling from the afterlife to apologize for dying, or I'm hanging up," Chi-Chi mumbles after the fourth ring.

Television snow fuzzes somewhere in Bulma's brain and it takes a good three seconds for a neuron to fire and give life to her tongue. "I think Vegeta just proposed."

Silence.

"Chi-Chi." Bulma looks down at the phone, but no, the call's still connected.

"Sorry, I just hallucinated," Chi-Chi says, sounding very awake. "So he proposed… to, what, end all life on earth? Is it Tuesday already?"

"No, he just—I seriously think he just actually asked me to marry him… for real." 

There's a shift on the other line, like Chi-Chi's getting out of bed so she can come over and violently put a little reality on the plate, and Bulma sincerely hopes that's what's happening. "Did he give you a ring?"

Trunks tosses the raw diamond—it must be well over 12,000 carats, Dende fucking wept—up into the air and catches it with a bright grin. "This would make an awesome baseball."

"Yes?" Sort of.

A beat, and then, "... How big?"

"Oh, for the love of—"

"I'm just asking!"

"This is so cool. Papa asked you to marry him!" Trunks throws his hands up and cheers, except he lets go of the diamond and it crashes through the ceiling, the roof, and then probably enters earth's orbit. She makes a note to call her lawyer next.

"All right, I'm coming right over. Sit tight." The call disconnects.

Bulma drops her head into her hand and sighs. Dreaming about winning the Belnob Award is about as close as she's ever going to get, because there's no way she's going to survive this.

Her head snaps up.

"Wait, Phase One?"

 

+

 

"I guess I can finally cross 'Vegeta in super saiyan mode screaming at me to find a tux at 4am' off my bucket list." Krillin manages to yawn and glare at the same time, relenting only when Bulma shoves a cup of black coffee under his nose. Or where his nose ought to be.

Trunks catches her eye and gestures wildly as if to say, I know, right?!

Krillin takes the mug gratefully and downs it all in one go. "He didn't actually say why I needed a tux—"

"He said I could find something to wear at Kojima Electronics," 18 deadpans.

Bulma shuts her up with a mug of sweetened tea and then goes hunting through the cabinets for ibuprofen for the headache she knows is coming.

"He said he'd kill me if I didn't get to Capsule Corp within twenty minutes, and then he destroyed the mountain I was on," Piccolo grumbles into his glass of water.

"He threatened to blow up Chiaotzu if we didn't show," Tenshinhan snaps from his place at the table, arms crossed, and Chiaotzu gives Bulma a pleading look. For what—coffee or a quick death—she doesn't know.

Oolong has a death grip on his mug, his eyes wide and haunted. "He kicked the door in and nearly turned my hide into bacon when I said I didn't want to go."

"I was already up," Roshi supplies. "Watching… uh, a movie."

At the head of the table, chin pillowed on his arms, Gohan snoozes. His fingers are stained with ink, the poor kid. On either side of him, Trunks and Goten are practically bouncing in their chairs. Goten beams up at Roshi earnestly. "Which movie, Master Roshi?"

Roshi opens his mouth.

"Say one word and I'm sending you to go hang out with Goku," Chi-Chi warns from where she's whipping something in a bowl near the stove. The oven's got more in it than it's had in years and the combined smells are amazing.

Except Bulma hasn't bought groceries in days. With two bottomless pits living with her, it's easier to just order out, so she's not sure where Chi-Chi found the ingredients for any of what she's making and Bulma's too afraid to ask. Instead, she turns her attention to the final occupant of the table. "What'd he threaten you with?"

"He didn't."

She squints. "Then why are you here?"

Yamucha shrugs. "I didn't want to be left out."

"So, is this what I think it is?" Krillin asks with a sly grin. "Are you two crazy kids tying the knot?"

"Or he's remodeling the bedroom in a really stupid way," Bulma mutters. "Your guess is as good as mine."

"Tch," Yamucha snorts. "I'd pay good money to see him get down on one knee."

Trunks slurps the dregs of his hot chocolate. "Mama, did you get a dress? Goten and I can go find you one."

"Yeah! A really pretty dress. I saw one when we were in town—remember, mom? It had sparkles on it! We could get that one!" Goten beams up at her and she's so charmed that she almost wants to let them commit a Class E felony.

"Maybe next time, sweetie," Bulma says.

"There won't be a next time."

Immediately, a chill fills the room, and all eyes are narrowed and trained on the prince of all assholes as he moseys into the kitchen like he hasn't forced a group of exhausted people who hate him to congregate before dawn. He looks fresh as a fucking daisy.

Vegeta pushes Gohan out of his chair to take his place at the head of the table.

"Ow, what—" Gohan mumbles from the floor.

"Good morning, Mr. Vegeta!" Goten chirps and waves a chocolatey hand at him.

Vegeta inclines his head in acknowledgement. "Kakarot's lesser groin spawn."

Luckily, Piccolo's reflexes are faster than anyone's and he catches Chi-Chi's wrist before she can hurl the knife in her hand. She subsides with a mutinous growl and goes back to chopping.

"Care to elaborate on why we're all here?" Piccolo glares at him over the rim of his water glass.

"It's not Frieza again, is it?" Krillin asks. "He would come back at four in the morning." At 18's curious look, Krillin pats her hand and says, "Very long story."

"Maybe he's finally going to apologize to some people for killing them," Tenshinhan growls. Chiaotzu sighs and floats up to wordlessly take the mug of coffee Bulma offers.

Vegeta grins meanly. "Hope certainly springs eternal on this mudball, doesn't it?"

Bulma eyes the bottle of ibuprofen and wonders if it'd be safe to take nineteen more. 

"I don't care why the rest of you are here," Chi-Chi says, flicking a skillet gracefully, the rice inside of it rolling up and cresting like a wave. She doesn't spill a single grain. "But I was promised a wedding, so—"

That seems to rouse Gohan from his stupor. "A wedding? Whose?"

Even Tenshinhan's scowl breaks under the weight of his confusion.

"Congratulations, plebeians," Vegeta booms, a smirk curling his face. "You are all about to bear witness to history." He pauses and then turns an unimpressed look on Yamucha. "Except you. What the hell are you doing here?"

"I think you forgot to invite me," Yamucha says.

"No, I didn't." To the rest of them, Vegeta says, "I have asked—"

"Bullied," Bulma corrects him.

"—asked the only one with half a brain on this pathetic excuse for a planet to become my wife."

Trunks and Goten cheer while ten pairs of eyes (plus one extra) swivel to stare at her in stunned silence. Bulma shakes out another ibuprofen and mouths, bullied.

Krillin turns to Yamucha with a grin. "Pay up."

 

+

 

18 paws her way through one of Bulma's walk-in closets, top lip frozen in a curl of disgust. There is a growing heap of colored fabric behind her, and finally Bulma steps forward to snag the next tossed thing—a striped blazer that she wears to meetings—right out of the air before it makes it into the pile.

"None of these are going to work," Bulma points out.

18 cranes her head to look at Bulma over her shoulder. "Of course they aren't. I'm burning them. Isn't that what friends do—kind favors for each other?" 18 gives her a flat look before going back to the closet. "So, what brought it on?"

Bulma sighs and cradles her blazer. "Trunks asked Vegeta why we never got married. I told Vegeta I knew what to expect, but—"

"And you didn't think he'd take it as a challenge to prove you wrong?" 18 has the incredible ability to phrase questions like statements to make whomever she's talking to feel like a complete moron. Bulma fights the urge to pull out her three doctorates and make 18 eat them.

"I did," she admits, "but I thought maybe he'd, like, go a week without destroying his new training bots or leave my Triple Chocolate Sundae Extreme ice cream the hell alone. Of all the things I imagined, throwing a diamond at my head never even made the list."

18 snorts. "He lives to subvert expectations."

"He's such an asshole," Bulma agrees.

"You seem too laid back about all of this. Do you even want to get married?"

Thankfully, the bedroom door opens and slams into the wall before she can bullshit her way out of answering, and Trunks strides in with his head held high. She laughs, opens her mouth to greet him, and then loses control of her language skills.

He's clad in a miniature version of Vegeta's spandex—dark grey in color, offset by familiar white boots with gilded toes. Stretched across his top is white saiyan armor, complete with the embossed breastplate and the smooth line of the plackart guarding his diaphragm and belly. Two epaulets of gold hold a crimson cape that brushes the floor, and engraved into the space above his heart is a red emblem comprised of curved, barbed lines.

He looks every bit like the prince he is. Bulma goggles.

"What the hell are you wearing?"

Trunks's grin threatens to split his face. "Papa had it made for me! Don't I look so cool?!"

"He had it made," Bulma echoes, dumbfounded. "When?"

"I don't know. He said he used the 3D printer."

That little weasel. Her fucking fiancé reverse-engineered her armor designs without her knowledge or permission to make saiyan ceremonial garb.

18 chooses that moment to turn around and hold up the ugliest thing Bulma's ever seen. "I found your dress."

"It's okay, mama," Trunks coos, patting Bulma's arm. "You can cry. It's your wedding day." He then turns toward the door and shouts, "Goten, come in here and show 'em!"

Rounding the corner as if waiting to be summoned, Goten scampers in and stares up at Bulma through the holes poked into the paper bag pulled over his head.

"Isn't it cool? Mr. Vegeta made it just for me!"

 

+

 

After she manages to grab hold of the whatever the hell it was 18 found in her closet and shove it into an incinerator, Bulma makes a quick escape into one of the house's many hidden stairways to flirt with a nice breakdown. Her legs give out from under her and she sinks to the top stair with a pitiful groan, dropping her head into her hands.

The bastard's finally cracked.

Not that he was ever a paragon of mental health to begin with, but it's the only explanation for this utter insanity. No one goes from 'this is a farce' to 'let's get hitched' in less than 24 hours, especially not someone as deeply entrenched in his own ideals and a general hatred for anything human as Vegeta.

She's not an idiot. Goku's sacrifice at the Cell Games left Vegeta at loose ends, without purpose, and a saiyan without something to live for is a dangerous saiyan. Every day after Goku's death was an exercise in waiting; she used to wake up and expect to find him and her father's latest ship prototype gone. She's done her level best to give him a reason to stay—created simulations to bring him to the very edges of his endurance, allowed him complete control over Trunks's own training, kept his mind sharp by engaging him on her newest inventions, showed him the variety and creativity of earth cuisine, welcomed him into her bed with open arms—and she's grown to love the asshole, but she's done it with eyes wide open. Nothing in the universe could keep him here if he didn't want to be. And after a while, she would wake up and go out to the gravity simulator, knock on the side of it, and call him in for breakfast without the fear that he wouldn't answer.

But this…

He'd looked so caught out when Trunks asked him why they'd never gotten married that she's honestly surprised that he didn't turn tail and flee from the conversation. That should have put paid to it. He should've disappeared for a few weeks, blown up a few mountains, and then come back as if nothing had happened—he would resume being a fixture in her and Trunks's lives, and the matter would be closed.

But, no. He had to ruin her damn weekend by pulling this bullshit.

The smart thing to do would be to corner him and ask him why now, why this, just—why? They've got a good thing going. What the hell's possessed him to upset that all now, and in such a slapdash, ridiculous manner?

She can just hear the caustic, mean reply and puts the kibosh on that line of inquiry immediately.

There's a susurrus of commotion coming from beneath her, and she creep-slides down the stairs on her ass, stopping only when she reaches a wall vent. Through the intricate grate, she spies Vegeta standing in the middle of the living room with his back to her, the other Z-warriors indolent on the couches and chairs strewn around him.

"… still don't get the concept," Tenshinhan says, brows furrowed.

Vegeta snorts. "I'm shocked."

"Hey, we're just trying to avoid some international incident if we screw it up," Krillin soothes, all smiles and raised hands. "Go through it one more time and we'll call it good."

"One more time," Vegeta agrees with a sneer. "You idiots better pay attention. All right. There are four Phases to a saiyan marriage ceremony."

Gohan and Krillin are the only ones who nod. Bulma sinks down a little further and presses her ear to the grate. This ought to be good.

Snorting, Piccolo doesn't sound impressed. "You were barely more than a toddler when the saiyans were wiped out. How do you know this?"

"Fuck you, green man," Vegeta snarls. "As prince, I was forced to witness dozens of marriages. I remember more than enough to conduct this properly."

"Then, by all means," Piccolo says.

Vegeta stews in that for a long moment before ignoring him outright and turning his attention to the rest of the group. "Four Phases to a saiyan wedding ceremony. The first is the choosing of the Second Self. This is a warrior whom the stronger of the pair calls to stand with them and act as witness of the union."

Gohan brightens. "Oh! Like a best man!"

"There are no best men," Vegeta says, and although Bulma can't see him she can practically hear his eyes rolling. "Not in this world or any other. There is only the one you trust not to kill you and take your intended, and they are the Second Self."

There's a pause, and then, "You hate us."

"Excuse me?"

"You hate us," Tenshinhan repeats, bored. "Not that we want Bulma for any reason—" Bulma makes a face. "—but if the point is to have someone you trust and like, then I'm pretty sure none of us fit the criteria."

Vegeta points at Tenshinhan in agreement. Bulma sighs.

"Well," Gohan says slowly, slyly, and stands. "Since I'm the only other saiyan here—"

"And nobody else wants the job," Piccolo interjects.

"—I think it's my duty to—"

"No."

Gohan chokes on the rest of his sentence and stares at Vegeta with wide, betrayed eyes. "But-But I'm the only other saiyan!"

"I never specified that the Second Self had to be saiyan," Vegeta says primly.

Even Chiaotzu laughs and calls bullshit on that one. "A saiyan wedding ceremony would allow someone from another race to serve?"

"No, but since I'm stuck on this mudball with limited options—"

Gohan clears his throat pointedly.

"—there's only one I would choose," Vegeta finishes and looks to his left.

There's a long moment of silence until Krillin blinks. "Me?"

"Krillin?!" Gohan bleats at the same moment, and Vegeta props his hands on his hips, cutting the figure of a benevolent ruler.

Bulma claps her hands over her mouth to stifle a shriek of disbelief, because what.

Krillin stares up at Vegeta with the most horrified expression she's ever seen him wear—and considering she was with him on Namek, she ought to know. He throws his arms out and shouts, "Why me? I annoy you, I've always gotten in your way, I tried to steal your wish on Namek… I mean, out of anyone here, I'm the worst choice. You'd be much better choosing Gohan."

At that, Gohan gives an eager nod.

Vegeta sniffs and shrugs. "You did what I asked on Namek and you gave me a Senzu bean when we were after Gero. I have not forgotten these things. If I were to murder everyone in this room, I'd probably make your death the quickest."

Coming from Vegeta, that's a declaration of love.

"Huh." Mollified, Krillin sits back and smiles smugly at everyone.

Tenshinhan blows out a breath. "How gracious of you."

"I have my moments," Vegeta agrees.

Gohan sinks back into his seat with a mutinous pout. "This is because of my dad, huh?"

"Not at all—your unfortunate parentage isn't your fault. But Bulma's foolish mother has insisted on taking photos and I'm not about to have your stupid hair in any of the shots, lest people think I voluntarily associate with you."

 

+

 

When Piccolo jumps to Gohan's hair's defense, she slinks away and goes in search of her aforementioned foolish mother, who's sitting in the kitchen with Chi-Chi, frosting the last batch of what looks like two-hundred cupcakes and dusting powdered sugar over dozens of little lemon tarts. The counters are literally covered in beautifully-arranged desserts.

Bulma stares. "Where the hell did all this come from?"

"Oh, sweetie! I'm so happy for you!" Her mother squeals, abandoning the bowl of sugar in favor of squeezing the life out of her. "My little girl isn't so little anymore."

"No, seriously," Bulma wheezes. "How did you have the time—"

Her mother titters and lets her go. "Oh, you know I'm very good about time management."

Bulma looks at Chi-Chi, who gives a wide-eyed shrug and mouths I have no idea.

"I will say," her mother continues, "it's not easy to plan a wedding with only a few hours before the ceremony. I barely had time to have a dress sent here."

If she shoves some of those pudding cups down her throat, it'll take between four and six minutes to choke to death. If she runs. Chi-Chi definitely knows the Heimlich, or she'll just suckerpunch Bulma until she spits them out.

"You had a dress ordered?" Oh god, it's going to be an actual mountain of ruffles and bows. Dropped waist silhouette. Capped sleeves. Tulle.

Clapping her hands together, her mother nods and then wipes a tear from her eye. "Your lovely blonde friend helped me pick it out. It's utterly stunning."

Forget choking to death. There's a meat cleaver by the sink.

"I just wish you'd given us a little more notice," her mother sighs.

"More notice? I just found out this morning!" Bulma shouts.

Chi-Chi shakes her head and turns back to the stove.

Her mother's pearl pink lips purse in a moue of disappointment. "Do you know how much money we had to throw at Perumo's Bakery for the cake? I had to order your wedding dress off the rack. It probably won't fit right."

Bulma blinks. "Why not?"

"Well, I mean, it's been seven years. I don't think you've been working as hard as you could to lose the rest of the baby weight…"

"Excuse me?!"

"Darling," her mother says, all reasonable smiles, "I know one's wedding day can be stressful, but you mustn't become a… oh, what do the young people call it now? Oh, yes. A bridezilla."

Somewhere in the depths of Bulma's brain, something shorts out.

"All right, that's it." Her whisk clattering to the counter, Chi-Chi whirls around, takes Bulma's mother by the shoulders, and marches her out of the kitchen. "Mrs. Briefs, why don't you go see how Dr. Briefs is coming along with the seating arrangements?"

"But I—"

"Go," Chi-Chi orders and pushes her through the doorway. That taken care of, Chi-Chi walks serenely back to the stove, pours something into a heated skillet, and immediately begins stirring it.

Bulma stares at the rhythmic pivot of Chi-Chi's elbow and blurts, "Can I do that?"

Chi-Chi hands her the spoon wordlessly and it only takes a few stirs before the tension seeps out of Bulma's shoulders. It's the wonderful, mindless task of loosening bolts and drawing hearts and stars in the margins of her draftbook. No wonder that the only place Chi-Chi is ever zen is in the kitchen.

"How are you holding up?"

A laugh fights its way out of her, high-pitched and hysterical, and she presses her tongue and bites down on her knuckles. "I'm honestly not convinced I'm even awake."

"My wedding was quick, but I don't remember it being this crazy," Chi-Chi muses in a really unhelpful way.

"Because when I think of Vegeta, I think 'calm and sane'." Exhaling, Bulma stirs harder.

"The recipe calls for even strokes."

"The recipe can go fuck itself." She doesn't know exactly what she's stirring and she couldn't care less. "I just… Everyone's going along with this like it isn't the worst idea."

"Is it?"

Bulma looks away from the pot of whatever to where Chi-Chi leans against the sink, eyes trained on the ceiling. Discussing the matter with Goku, maybe, although Chi-Chi looks a bit too calm for that. As much as she loves Goku to death, Bulma has no idea why anyone in their right mind would remain so loyal to a man who has no problem throwing them over at the first sign of battle.

No one gives Chi-Chi the credit she deserves.

"Is it what?"

"The worst idea?" Chi-Chi asks, thoughtful. "You love him, don't you?"

Bulma pauses in her stirring. "Yes…?"

"Well, there's no accounting for taste," Chi-Chi mutters, then perks up. "So it's quick and utterly insane. Who cares? Isn't that you and Vegeta in a nutshell, anyway?"

"I guess," Bulma shrugs. "It's just… not what I thought it'd be."

Chi-Chi snorts. "On my wedding night, I had to explain what sex was to my husband. Nothing's what we think it's going to be."

"I thought that if it happened at all, he would at least have the good fucking sense to… to…"

"'To...'?" Chi-Chi prompts with a curious tilt of her head.

Bulma sighs and opens her mouth to finish it, but there comes a knock on the wall and they both turn to see Tenshinhan awkwardly standing in the doorway. If his muscles were any bigger, he'd be stuck there.

"Sorry to interrupt," he says flatly.

"Oh god, who did he kill?" Bulma asks.

"No one yet, but the royal asshole requires your help for Phase Two."

Bulma casts around for the ibuprofen bottle. Someone smartened up and hid it. "What's Phase Two?"

He rolls all three eyes heavenward. "Apparently if there's an objection to the person marrying into the royal house, someone from the wedding party has to fight them."

Goddamn it, Yamucha.

"That seems really… unnecessary," Bulma says through gritted teeth. No amount of stirring is going to help her now.

"It's saiyan tradition. The worthiness of the wedding party reflects on the person getting married. Or something. I tuned out." Tenshinhan's shoulders brush against both sides of the doorway in a shrug, and then he leaves.

Chi-Chi squints. "I can never read that guy."

"Great," Bulma sighs. "Now 18 has to kill Yamucha."

Chi-Chi turns off the stove, moves the pot onto a back burner, and unties her apron. Something in the air changes, drops like an oncoming storm, and Bulma watches with a growing sense of horror as Chi-Chi walks out the kitchen door and into the backyard.

She runs out after her but can do little more than watch as Chi-Chi stalks across the grass to where Yamucha's standing.

"Seriously?!" Yamucha demands of the group. "You're all just going to let her waltz into the fucking sunset with him?!"

Vegeta, standing apart from the others with the exception of Krillin at his side, crosses his arms and turns up his nose. "I don't waltz, peasant."

"Vegeta," Chi-Chi barks. "What do I have to do." 

"You are a representative of my intended," he says gravely, brows drawn and a serious lilt to his mouth. "As such, you must highlight her worthiness by proving your own. If you bring the dissenter down, the wedding can commence, and none will raise another objection without serious consequence… in this case, by me crushing their skull."

Bulma slaps her hands over her face and breathes into her palms. As far down as Yamucha is on the Z-warrior totem pole, he's still way stronger than Chi-Chi. She can hold her own as far as straight-up martial arts, but she can't use ki as an offense or fly away to gain some distance.

Immediately, Chi-Chi drops into a fighting stance, but after a moment her shoulders and arms drop and she stands normally. "Is there a certain way we need to do this?"

"Fight however you wish," Vegeta says with a vague wave of his hand.

"This is the dumbest thing I've ever seen!" Bulma shouts. "Chi-Chi, don't you dare. Yamucha, shut your mouth and go home. Enough of this."

"Bulma, this isn't me being your ex. This is me being your friend and stopping you from making a huge mistake."

"I have a son with him!"

"Look, I get that things happen during times of passion. Trunks is a good kid. But do you really want to tie yourself and your name to his? Have you forgotten what he's done? He killed me! He's tried to kill Goku how many times? He could turn on a dime at any minute and wipe us all out. He isn't someone you forgive and marry, Bulma! I can't believe you're this desperate to get a ring."

She stares. "You know what, Chi-Chi? Never mind. Kick his ass."

Yamucha turns to Chi-Chi and shakes his head, throwing his arms up in utter befuddlement. "Unbelievable. What is it with you women and saiyans?"

Chi-Chi gives him a long look, and for a moment Bulma thinks she's going to launch right into an offensive attack. She's seen how Chi-Chi fights: hard, with great determination, and without mercy. But Chi-Chi doesn't assume her stance again. She doesn't even lift a fist.

Instead, she goes right for the kill. "Bulma once told me that when you were dating she faked every single orgasm."

Yamucha reels back as if she actually had struck him and goes down hard. He doesn't get back up.

Everyone else, Bulma included, is stunned into complete and utter silence.

Except Vegeta, who laughs so hard he cries.

 

+

 

Bulma limps into her room with the intent of crawling into bed and sleeping until all of her friends have left or died, but her bed is already occupied by something that defies words, logic, and a few laws of physics. Sitting proudly atop it is a matte card with shimmering, embossed black swirls of text.

Wear it with pride, you beautiful bride. —The staff at Carte Blanche Designs 

"I'm going to buy all your stock and sell it at a loss," she vows, then storms out.

This must be what going mad feels like.

 

+

 

Bulma never once in her life has been so grateful for her lack of detectable power, because it means she can hide in the gravity simulator while Krillin's on the warpath looking for her.

"You can't do this to me, Bulma!" Krillin shouts, and she hears him pound on the side of the simulator. "He chose me as his Second Self and I know you know he'll make me regret it for the rest of my life if I suck at it!"

Damn right. Enjoy it while you can. 

"Bulma, this is just—it's your wedding day! You can't get cold feet on your wedding day!"

She's still in her pajamas on her wedding day and there isn't a whole lot that will make her change out of them. At some point she's going to wake up from this nightmare; it's just a question of riding it out until then.

As if struck by a brilliant thought, there's the thud of two hands slapping against the window, and Krillin says into the glass, muffled, "Anyone in here?"

He can't see her from where she's sitting behind the console, but she hunkers down further anyway, resolutely silent. She's infamous for doing the exact opposite of whatever someone tells her to do. She can play this game all day.

Finally, Krillin gives up the ghost and leaves, and Bulma breathes out her relief in a sob that catches somewhere in her chest.

This is all Trunks's fault. If he hadn't brought the topic of marriage up to Vegeta, she wouldn't have made that comment about expectations and Vegeta wouldn't have gone absolutely bonkers. As soon as this is over, she's grounding Trunks for life.

Something tugs at her chest but she doesn't have time to frown and wonder if she's finally having a heart attack, because the simulator door slides open with a hiss.

She ducks down until she's practically a pretzel.

"I know you're in here."

"I'd tell you to go to hell, but we're already there," she growls, and it draws a genuine laugh. His footsteps reverberate throughout the dome of the chamber, growing louder to her own ears as he draws nearer.

"You've been very uncooperative."

She snorts. "What are you going to do, blow up the planet? Go ahead. See if I care."

A pair of dark boots click together at the heels before her, and she lets her gaze travel slowly over even darker spandex, stretched over valleys of muscle and scars, up over white armor splashed with crimson and a deep midnight blue cloak. Etched over his heart is the same symbol Trunks wears.

Her eyes are caught by it and stay. "What is it?"

Gloved fingers reach up to brush it. "The symbol of the royal house."

"It's cool." She bends her knees and rests her arms on them, tilting her chin to catch his gaze. "I like it. Suits you."

He allows it for a moment before he blinks and plunks his fist on his hip. His severe countenance melts into something balefully confused. "I've never known you to run from anything; why are you running from this?"

Ah, there it is. She's on her feet before her brain catches up with them and has a finger right in his dumb face. "Why are you so for it? Since when do you want to get married? You've never once brought it up!"

A muscle ticks in his jaw. "You never said you wanted it, either."

"I was too busy being pathetically grateful you were here at all," she snaps. "Like I was going to push for more. I know how you get when you think you're backed into a corner."

He's always been so easy to goad into anger and he doesn't disappoint. He steps forward, crowding her, eyes flashing. "Shut the hell up! Don't you dare pin this on me! You aren't some pushover who begs for scraps—"

"Oh, don't act like you were just waiting—"

"—if you wanted to partake in a human circus, then I would have considered—" 

"—to tie yourself here even more! I told you I knew what to expect—"

"Let me tell you what I think about your expectations—"

"I EXPECTED TO BE ASKED!!"

His mouth closes so fast that she glances down at her hand to make sure she didn't actually uppercut him into shutting up.

Vegeta has always felt things so keenly, more than maybe anyone gives him credit for: anger, sure, but confusion, fear, and all the softer emotions always leave him floored. The first time he saw Trunks let loose a ki blast, it took Vegeta nearly ten minutes to move from where he stood, his pride and admiration nailing him to the floor. She took a picture of it; it's been the background on her phone ever since.

But whatever it is he's feeling right now, it's immobilized him. He stares at her wordlessly, swallowing hard.

In for a penny. "You came in, threw a 12,000-carat diamond at my head, and then you left… like it was a given I'd go along with it. Like I'd just follow you to the altar like some simpering dipshit and thank you for the privilege."

He swallows again and turns his head away—angrily, of course, because why would he ever allow himself to be sheepish? "I never once thought you were a simpering dipshit."

"You literally thought that was my name for the first two weeks you stayed here."

"Until you rigged the simulator to electrocute me!"

She took a picture of that too. It's still her lock screen. "Yeah, that shut you right up, didn't it."

A good two minutes passes before he turns back with an annoyed sigh, and he takes her hand into his. Sort of. He presses the back of his hand to her palm, then brings his lips to her knuckles, but he doesn't kiss them—he just sort of… breathes hotly over them, which is somehow better and worse, and she can feel her cheeks go hot. She presses her thighs together.

"Vegeta."

"Shut up," he mutters and won't meet her eyes. "If I have to do this, I'm doing it right."

Her breath comes in fits and starts. "Damn straight you have to do this. Is there a special saiyan way to propose? Like, Phase Zero-Point-Five?"

At that, he looks up. "Propose what?"

"Marriage, you dumbass. Isn't that what the diamond was for?"

"It was brought to my attention that a diamond makes one's intentions known. The bigger, the better."

Bulma rolls her eyes. "A diamond ring, idiot. That's what you use to propose."

"I'm not proposing. This isn't a fucking walk through the park. I'm asking you to take the royal name—"

"I'm not putting 'Vegeta' anywhere on my business cards, FYI."

He gives her an unimpressed glare. "Are you going to shut your fucking mouth so I can do this?"

Something unknots inside of her and she rolls her shoulders, easy, suddenly very awake. A grin breaks over her face, so wide that she thinks it might split her cheeks. "Shutting up."

"Hn." Suspicious bastard. "Bulma Briefs—"

She makes her eyes extra wide.

"Really?!"

"Sorry," she laughs, shaky. Her heart pounds like a kickdrum. "Just being a jerk. You know what that's like."

He withdraws his hand and hides it under his armpit, arms crossed tightly over his chest. His cheeks burn the way he does everything—angrily. "Forget it." 

"Oh my god, are you five? Ask me!"

"No! Why waste my time if you're not going to take this seriously!"

"Oh, now it's a waste of time?"

"Don't twist my words, woman."

"I swear to any and every god that is listening, I will make your life hell if you don't ask me to marry you right now."

"Like you said, we're already there." 

"Vegeta," she groans.

"Bulma," he mocks back.

This isn't going the way she hoped and it doesn't take a genius to realize that to get the results one wants, the experiment must change. For all her father taught her, it was her mother who gave her brain the old adage, If you want something done right, do it yourself.

Why did she ever think it wouldn't fall to her to do this? She's been handling these idiots for years. This is no different.

Inhaling, she slips her hand under his and brings them up between them. "Vegeta, prince—no, sorry, king of all saiyans, last of his name."

Immediately, Vegeta snaps to attention, eyes wide, lips parted in shock and something that might just be awe.

"You are a warrior unchallenged by anyone alive." With Goku dead, it's actually true. "You have achieved the golden legend of your forebearers and will no doubt someday pass it onto your son, who carries your legacy on shoulders that can hold it." That's actually not half bad. She's going to have to remember this when she's buttering up the CEO of ViewfinderSONIC the next time she brings up the idea of a merger. "I first knew you when you were—" What's the word she's looking for? "—weighed down by your failures and betrayals, but I've watched you outgrow them, avenge them, repent for them. You're not the same man you were; you're better, stronger, more."

She can't categorize the look on his face—stunned, touched, humbled, maybe even a little in love—but she'll be happy to spend the rest of her life trying.

"I'm proud to have carried and given birth to your heir and I would be proud—no, honored to… to, uh…" Shit. How is she going to end this? "To…"

"And you were doing so well," Vegeta murmurs, his voice as thin and hoarse as it's ever been, and leans down slightly to press his forehead to hers. "Finish it."

Her heart swells as she says, "I would be honored to be your queen and equal."

He pulls back slightly to give her the stink eye. "Let's not get carried away."

"Equals or nothing, asshole. That's non-negotiable."

"Fine." He sighs as if it pains him, but there's something soft in the crinkles at the edges of his eyes. "Equals. Or as close to it as you're ever going to get, because—"

"Blah blah, saiyans rule, humans drool, blah blah blah." But she smiles and lays her cheek atop his hand atop her hand. "Is that a yes?"

"Hmph. Yes."

Her eyes slide closed and she breathes out slowly. "Good."

They stand together like that for a long moment, and then Vegeta shifts, and she opens her eyes to watch him pull a capsule from inside his chestplate, depress the lever, and throw it. When the smoke clears, her hand drops and so does her jaw, because—

"Is that…?" She can't finish the sentence. Her voice doesn't seem to be working right.

"It is," he says, smug. "I was going to leave it in the bedroom for you to shriek over, but some white perversion of nature was already laid out on the bed." 

She laughs wetly, knuckling at her eyes. "Blame my mother and 18." 

"I usually do," he agrees. 

"You stole my armor designs," Bulma says absently. She draws as close to the display as she dares, too awed by it to touch. Her fingers trail a hair's breadth away from its outline, reverent. Slowly, she circles it, memorizing it from every angle, before coming back to the front. It's so regal that she feels an urge to bow to the mannequin. "Don't bother denying it."

"All right, I won't."

Ass.

"Is this really what… what your mother wore?" Because she's never been able to not touch, she reaches out and traces the insignia of the royal house.

"I don't know," Vegeta says. "I never knew her. But if I had, I imagine she would have worn something like this."

Her breath shudders out of her and she presses her palm over the symbol. Hers. "I love you, you know."

Averting his eyes, Vegeta clears his throat, cheeks flushed, and then pulls out another capsule. When the smoke clears, he shoves a piece of paper at her.

She takes it, confused. "What is this?"

"Phase Three: the vows. Learn them. Stray so much as a word and by saiyan law I have the right to imprison you for up to five years or publicly execute you."

"How romantic," she deadpans.

He nods, pleased. "I'm really pulling out all the stops."

 

+

 

Her mother used to dress her up in puffy, taffeta nightmares and call her a princess, but the older Bulma got, the more she wanted something sleek and cool—a representation of the metal and machines in her life. By the time she began attending charity functions in her father's place, she was known for her elegant, curve-hugging numbers, dripping in red sequins or sapphires. 

But this. This isn't some painted-on stunner. This is regal.

"I'm the goddamn queen," she says, grinning at her reflection.

"So you've been saying," Chi-Chi sighs with an eyeroll, crossing her arms. "For ten minutes straight."

"You look ridiculous," 18 says.

"Shut up," Bulma practically sings. "I look amazing."

18 casts about for something and frowns when she comes up empty. "Where's the dress from Carte Blanche? I know it was in here."

Somewhere in the bowels of Capsule Corporation, one lucky flame is currently chewing its way through a creature that never should have seen the light of day—frills and bows and all.

Burn that dress with pride, you beautiful bride.

Bulma shrugs. "It's a mystery."

"So, you're finally on board with this?" Chi-Chi swishes toward her, resplendent in petal pink and seafoam. At least her mother didn't screw this one up.

"A couple of things had to be cleared up," Bulma says. "We're good."

"Good."

For a moment, Bulma's viciously glad Goku's not here; she loves the idiot, but he doesn't deserve to see Chi-Chi so gorgeous and relaxed, not after all the shit he's pulled.

"Are we ready?"

"I think so." Bulma checks the high, elegant twist of her hair. Not long enough to do much else with it, but with a little determination and a lot of hairspray, 18 was able to work a miracle. "You know what you have to do, right?"

"Keep Trunks away from the appetizer table," Chi-Chi says.

"Keep the press away from the premises," 18 says.

"And send Yamucha back to King Kai if he so much as goes for the bar or the DJ," they both chorus.

Bulma sighs happily. Her friends are the best friends.

 

+

 

Phase Four is the ceremony itself, and Bulma waves off her father's offer to walk her down the aisle. No one is giving her to anyone; she's giving herself to Vegeta, as much as he's giving himself to her. Equals or nothing.

The music starts to play, something light and airy, almost certainly her mother's doing, and Bulma steels herself with a quick breath before beginning to walk. Despite the many white chairs arranged like soldiers on either side of the aisle, only her parents, the Z-warriors, Chi-Chi, 18, Goten, and Trunks fill them. As she glides her way down the carpet that was laid out, Bulma can't help but glance at the empty seats on the other side, filled with ghosts. King Vegeta and whoever was the queen would have been in the front row, watching warily as the prince pledged his life to an outsider, no doubt deafening in their silent disapproval.

Bulma inhales at the feel of their eyes on her, lifts her chin, and throws out an arm to flip her cape dramatically.

Where he stands on the makeshift altar someone made (dad), Vegeta rolls his eyes.

Krillin beams at her as she approaches. He's really taken his duty as the Second Self seriously, a piece of paper in his hand with what must be some saiyan blessing of the union. Judging by the sweat beading on his forehead, Vegeta threatened him with death if he fucked up, too.

She ascends the stairs and moves to stand at Vegeta's side. He clears his throat and shifts until he's standing in front of her.

"Bulma, you look so… so…" Krillin is at a loss for words, but he's grinning and his eyes glow with admiration.

She winks. "I know."

"Can we get on with this?" Vegeta growls, and she reaches out to smack him. He catches her hand in his and holds it there.

I will murder you, she mouths.

He grins.

"Okay, right. Right." With shaky hands, Krillin refers to his piece of paper and then says with a surprisingly loud and steady voice, "What is a saiyan if not a union of strengths?"

The music fades and everyone's eyes are on them, rapt. Bulma squeezes Vegeta's hand.

"A saiyan is born into power but does not know how to wield it without the knowledge of others. A saiyan is disciplined and trained by the words and actions of those around them. A saiyan is brought into their potential through the support of their team, their captains, their kin, and their king. To be saiyan is to reject solitude. A union of strengths leaves no room for selfishness; it is a contract made to be signed by many. Today, we witness the final signature."

Without needing to be prompted, Vegeta takes a step closer to Bulma, lifts the hand not holding hers, and places it on the royal insignia over her heart. She can almost feel the heat of his palm through the armor.

"You are my strength," he rumbles, his eyes locked onto hers. "My legs run because of you. My fists are swift because of you. My blood is hot because of you. My moon is full because of you. My mind thinks because of you. And I shall endure because of you."

Fuck. Her mascara.

She reaches up with her free hand and wipes at her eyes, staining the white of the gloves black, and then presses it over his insignia. How fitting—getting her dirty human hands all over him.

As if reading her mind, he smirks.

"You're such an assh—" She stops and laughs shakily, giving herself a minute before going for the gold. "Vegeta, you are my strength. My legs run because of you. My fists are swift because of you. My blood is hot because of you." Her mouth can barely get the words out around her grin. "My moon is full because of you. My mind thinks because of you. And I shall endure because of you."

In the audience, Yamucha sobs. 

"The contract is signed. From this day forward, you will draw upon each other's strengths to fight the battles that you may face, and you will face them together, for you now know what true power is." 

The paper flutters to the ground and Krillin fist-pumps the air. 

"I now pronounce you husband and wife! Kiss her, Vegeta!"

"That is not what was written! What the fuck did I say about deviating?!" There's an explosion of sound and raw power, and Vegeta—golden and glorious in his rage—forms a ball of ki.

Bulma huffs, rolls her eyes, and presses up against him to get her damn kiss. It's like licking a battery.

After a moment, the ki ball dissipates with a hiss and an iron bar of an arm wraps around her waist, pulling her close. She's never kissed him while he was in super saiyan mode; she likes the feeling of it, embracing a storm.

Their family and friends cheer, Trunks shouting the loudest, and she breaks away from her husband—oh god, her husband—to grin up at him. "That was a lot tamer than I expected."

"You know what I think of your expectations," he mutters, then shrugs. "There was a Phase Five."

She blinks. "Why didn't we do it?"

"Phase Five is the final claiming, in which I bite your neck to leave my mark and drink your blood—"

"No. God, no. A world of no," she gripes, shuddering. "Four is a good place to stop. A nice, even number. Also, your people were insane."

"Says the human," he sneers.

Probably unable to stay still one moment longer, Trunks launches himself at them from the front row, throwing his arms around her middle and burrowing into her with a whoop. "Mama, you're a saiyan now!"

Vegeta snorts and mutters something that sounds like, "she wishes." 

"I wonder what a saiyan honeymoon is like," Trunks muses, eyes going distant with possibilities.

She elbows Vegeta. "Probably involves me killing dinosaurs with my teeth."

"That'd be awesome," Trunks agrees.

Cupping the back of his head, she guides her little prince to rest his head on her hip while she surveys her kingdom. Chi-Chi is handing Gohan a plate of food and saying something that makes him sigh and rub the back of his neck; Goten just makes a bee-line for the food. Krillin cheerfully accepts a kiss on the forehead from 18, who actually cracks a smile, looking soft and happy. Tenshinhan and Chiaotzu are in a deep discussion with Roshi and Oolong, and behind them, Puar snatches a silver flask out of Yamucha's hand and floats away with it. Her parents wander over to join Krillin, her father shaking his hand while her mother sobs into a lace handkerchief. Piccolo lingers on the outskirts, uncomfortable but present. There's a Goku-shaped hole in this picture, but it's not enough to ruin the day.

But it still doesn't feel quite real—there's something missing, but damned if she can put her finger on what it is.

"Hey, papa?" Trunks tugs on Vegeta's hand. "Does this mean I've got to learn all that saiyan stuff when I want to get married?"

Vegeta gives him a stern look. "You do if you want me to still call you my son."

"Let's save the disowning for his teenage years, although I'd kill for a picture of you at a regular human wedding." Realization hits her like a shot and she smacks her forehead. "Shit. I don't think they ended up getting a photographer. Sorry, kiddo, but it looks like we still don't have any wedding photos."

Trunks blinks, confused. "Really? Because that guy from TV was here taking pictures of you."

"Who?"

He turns, scans the crowd, and points to someone near the appetizer table.

Bulma squints. "Is that Lennox Matthews?"

Next to her, Vegeta goes very, very still, and then says, "Excuse me."

He descends the altar, pushing Gohan and his well wishes out of the way, and stalks toward the food. There comes a shout, followed by breaking ceramic, and an explosion sends all of the white chairs crashing into each other. Krillin helps a dazed and singed Lennox Matthews escape while her husband—held back by Gohan, Tenshinhan, and Piccolo—screams that he's going to blow up the planet just to have the satisfaction of handing Matthews over to King Enma personally.

"There it is," Bulma sighs.