What Vegeta didn't know was that she could track his space ship no matter where it went. He'd have disconnected the tracking mechanism in an instant--of course he would have--so Bulma always asked intently where he was and what he had seen and how far he had travelled, and Vegeta told her the same thing every time: _If I told you the names of the planets, they would mean nothing to you. I've travelled a long distance. I'm here to train, not to sight-see._
She never asked him, "When are you coming back?" because she knew. He wouldn't return until he had transformed into a Super Saiya-jin, and she knew that once he did that, he would tell her. Not in words. But he would tell her with his eyes. With the perpetual half-smirk that suddenly would seem so much more genuine, even as he snarled that his training was not a matter for discussion. Tonight Bulma laid a hand on her firm abdomen and felt the flutters of her son through her fingertips. She rubbed, and a hard body-part came up in return--an elbow or a knee was hard to tell apart, but she suspected this was a foot. The baby had turned head-down a while ago, and ever since then she'd had a perpetual case of feet-in-ribs.
Glancing at the tracker, Bulma saw that Vegeta hadn't moved very far from yesterday's position. When he said the names of the planets meant nothing to her, he was right. But she knew roughly that he'd started out in Frieza's old territory and then abandoned that pursuit and ventured into an unknown quadrant. Vegeta had grown up traveling through space. The best Bulma could manage was reducing that majesty to numbers and a blip on a three dimensional computer image.
She pushed the button to open the communication channel, then sat back to wait. Sometimes he didn't answer at all. Maybe out of the ship, maybe involved in an exercise. Maybe he didn't feel like being bugged. Maybe he would answer. She tried about once a week. This time he answered quickly. "What's up, Bulma?"
"Yeah, I'm delighted to hear from you too." She studied his image on the monitor. "You look like something the cat dragged in! What have you done to yourself?" Vegeta sneered. "I'm training. Maybe on Earth they do that while reclining on a chaise lounge, but that is not how a Saiya-jin trains."
He was doing fine, in other words. He considered all those bruises and scrapes beneath his notice. "Well since you asked," because he never did, "the baby is doing okay. He's not kicking so much because the doctor says room is getting tight in there. Only a couple of weeks to go."
Vegeta nodded. "Where are you now?" Bulma waited a moment before adding, "Will you come home when he's born?"
She had to credit him this much: he never changed expression, no matter what he was feeling. She could project any emotion she wanted onto him, depending on the mood. Maybe he wanted to protect her feelings, or maybe he was just tired of her asking--or tired of her. She noticed the way his eyes dropped. "Are you too far away?" No, she knew that if he gunned it for home, he'd make it in time for the birth.
"I have too far to go."
That at least wasn't a lie--his training had too far to go. "Okay." She didn't completely mask the disappointment. "I'll have Dad call if anything happens. I'll let you get back to work." Vegeta nodded, then cut the connection.
This was how she'd lived for four months, since the day her father had asked her to install some equipment on the spacecraft and added, almost absently, "Didn't I tell you--Vegeta wants to take the ship out into space?"
It would take a lot of muscle to strangle a Saiya-jin, but Bulma sorely wanted to try. Instead, she went to the ship and installed the parts, then found Vegeta in the library.
"You're just going to leave?"
"I'll be back to face the androids."
"I'll go with you."
Startled, he'd taken a half step toward the french windows. "You'd get killed. You and the baby both. It wouldn't be safe for you. I can't become a Super Saiya-jin on this Earth. It's too soft. I can't push as hard when you're here. You--"
He didn't say, "You're in my way." He should have. She kept asking him if all this training was necessary, and sometimes he cut it short at her insistence. She said, "You'll do it. I know you can." She stepped closer to him and hugged him, feeling the hard bulge of their baby crammed up between them. She wasn't really showing at five months, but the presence was real. "But stay until tomorrow." "You'll ask me to stay until tomorrow after that too. I have to go now."
"Let me at least get everything ready for you to go. I can freeze you some real meals and get all your laundry ready."
"There's food enough on the ship." (Dehydrated garbage, Bulma called it.) "And I don't want you touching my clothes. I've got enough on the ship already. I'm ready to leave." He kissed her forehead (because she expected him to) and stepped around her. She waited a long time on the window-seat in the library, letting the sunlight streak her hair. An hour later, he returned to the library and kissed her one lingering last time. "I love you," she had said, and he had replied, "I'll keep in touch. I'll let you know how I am."
_I do know how you are,_ Bulma thought. _You're a jerk. You're from a race where the royalty picks its women by tourney--the strongest women beat each other up, and the winners go to the barons or dukes or whatever you call them. You breed when they're fertile, and then you hold another tourney. And you never bothered to think there was more to it than the way your father did things._ She knew he'd never need her. It was a damn good thing she didn't need him.
Her meandering footsteps carried her to Vegeta's room. Slipping inside, Bulma stood in the semi-darkness for a minute before flipping on the light. She could imagine he was just hiding in the room, or working in the gravity chamber--until she came in here. Sealed up tight, the room had kept Vegeta's scent for about a week. Now it smelled like any other room.
He had almost no furnishings: a small shelf of martial-arts books borrowed from her father, and a bedside chest with two small drawers. Bulma sat on the edge of his futon, then laid over on her side and played a game of rub and kick with the baby for a while. There had been that one moment she'd imagined he'd been really happy--and maybe he had been--the night she'd told him of the pregnancy. That night he brought her to his room and laid her out on her back, then pulled up her shirt and slipped down her jeans low around her hips. He'd laid his cheek against her stomach and closed his eyes, breathing deeply. As she had wondered what on earth he was doing, she'd seen a tremendous smile overtake his entire face. Never had he given her a look like that before. And never-- He murmured, "There it is." He told her he'd felt the baby's power signature. She was barely even pregnant, but he was able to detect a power level on the embryo. "I'm not an augur--I can't tell how strong it will be--but it's definitely not your power."
Bulma sat up and rubbed her eyes. _I hope you can find that power signature from ninety million light years away, or wherever you are. _ She walked to the closet and slid open the doors. Always the prince, Vegeta had kept his clothes neatly. He always worked out wearing designated workout clothes--usually those biking shorts--and then emerged from the gravity chamber a mess, showered, and dressed for dinner with the family. Bulma supposed a prince in exile in a hostile court would almost certainly develop defense mechanisms along those lines--picking up local traditions almost by radar and then slipping almost unnoticed into the routine.
Bulma and her parents and Yamcha and Puar always ate dinner together at seven; Vegeta would dress for dinner and join them at seven. Standing at attention on the racks hung all his dinner clothes: casual dress pants and oxford shirts, all solids. He had some creams and some whites, but she loved him in blue. He looked good in anything, really, even the pink Bad Man shirt she'd picked up at a concert back in her teenage years. She'd thought it a clever joke at first, but he'd made that shirt look so good, who could laugh?
With the hangers clicking lightly, she flipped through his closet until she found the shirt. If he knew she was trying to humiliate him that day, he hadn't given in. But he hadn't worn it again, either. At the bottom of the closet she found a bag of his laundry.
_Typical._ Bulma hauled it down the hallway and started the load, then returned to her room. Typical wasn't exactly the right word--Vegeta usually kept all his clothes in good order. Unlike Yamcha, who had thought of Bulma as his personal laundry service (in vain, she might add), Vegeta never expected her to do his clothes. The one time he had caught her putting away his clothes, he'd asked why on earth she thought that needed to be done. It always annoyed him when she did his laundry, and it would piss him off on his return to find she'd done it again. This was his own maintenance. He'd had no personal servants in Frieza's court. He also made his own bed in the mornings, at least on mornings he woke up alone, and Bulma doubted Yamcha even knew beds _could_ be made up neatly.
When the laundry emerged, Bulma sat in the middle of Vegeta's room folding the warm clothes. None of them could possibly smell like him any longer, that half-spicy, half musky fragrance of Saiya-jin that she'd found so intoxicating in the beginning. Goku never had that scent about him, and she was sure it was Vegeta's natural scent. Cuddled up warm beneath his blankets, she had gotten drunk off it, and in the early days she had known from Puar's wrinkled nose when she'd come to breakfast smelling distinctly like a man who wasn't
Who definitely wasn't Yamcha. Who didn't laugh with her like Yamcha. Who didn't share with her like Yamcha. But whose singular purpose told her that infinitely more than Yamcha, he could be trusted. Vegeta had left in the fifth month of her pregnancy to make love to his one true beloved: physical power. Yamcha would have left her too, but seeking five or ten or fifty ephemeral loves that had nothing to do with physical power and everything to do with physical attraction and no impulse control.
Bulma realized the pair of socks she was trying to match didn't go together. Pulling them apart, she sought out the right match for one of them, then rolled those two together instead. "I have too far to go," Vegeta had said, and she knew how true that was. In so many ways. He had to become a Super Saiya-jin. He had to become Goku's superior. He had to have a great fight with those androids. And he had to learn that in the end, none of that would be of any importance. Just as he had to become a Super Saiya-jin by training the hard way, apparently he needed to learn that the hard way too.
Bulma picked up one of Vegeta's white shirts and buried her face in it, trying to keep her breath steady and her eyes clear. But she could still smell that musty Saiya-jin spice over the laundry detergent, and the tears came. Because she knew that after Vegeta went as far as he wanted to go, he'd eventually have to come back.
And he'd find her here still, loving his baby and folding his laundry.