Vegeta collapsed. Not like the dozens of times before he'd collapsed in the months prior within the Capsule Corp vessel. This time, as he kicked the gravity up to five hundred times earth's gravity, only moments after he forced himself into the air the blood rushed from his head and he hit the floor with crushing force. It was like being trampled underfoot by half a dozen oozarus at once. He could feel his bones crack under the pressure, his internal organs bruised to the breaking point. He was certain he could feel something in his gut split open.
Still, Vegeta snarled and tried to force himself back up as he always did. He bared his teeth, growling and hissing like a beast, his brow welded together with rage. But this time, it wasn't enough. This time, no amount of fury could make his muscles piece together his broken bones. This time, no matter how hard he dwelled on the disgusting image of Kakarot's golden hair, his will couldn't overcome the weight pulling him down.
His roars of rage cracked into groans and cries of agony, his face hitting the floor once again, blood dripping as his teeth clattered together. He actually felt like he was going to die. Was this it? Would he truly crumble into a broken heap on some worthless planet chasing after that fool who had somehow managed to surpass him? The very thought filled him with rage again. He screamed, a hurricane of power blazing around him. The warning sirens of the ship began to blare, red lights flashing everywhere.
And then he heard it: her voice, screaming over the comm. "You idiot! What do you think you're doing?!" Bulma shouted at him, "Why do you keep doing this, you're going to get yourself killed!" Vegeta barely lifted his head just enough to see her face on the screen again, glaring down at him with disapproval. He tried to open his mouth to respond, but could only manage several pained gasps and grunts before his cheekbone struck the ground again. Bulma's angry gaze fell into one of shock and concern. "Oh my God, are you okay?! Hold on, Vegeta, I can turn it off!"
Bulma spun wildly in her chair to her computer, sending the shut down command to the ship. After the incident where Vegeta blew up the last ship, she'd made sure this one had remote commands. Vegeta gasped as unexpected breath filled his lungs, the gravity of the ship no longer crushing them. Unwilling to just lay there, he began to crawl towards the door.
Before he reached it, Bulma came bursting in, her bright blue hair that she kept in that ridiculous afro these days frazzled with worry. "Vegeta!" she cried, dropping down by him.
Vegeta growled and groaned, finally giving up moving and rolling onto his side, gasping as a sharp jolt of pain shot through his ribs. "Can't…" he choked, trembling with frustration.
Bulma lowered her brow at him. "Oh you've really done it this time. Look at you!"
"Bulma," he grunted, one of his eyes sealed shut.
She pursed her lips and Yamcha came running in, his faithful companion Puar hovering at his shoulder as usual. "Oh no! Vegeta's done it again!" squeaked the little blue feline.
"Yamcha, can you help me?" Bulma asked, taking Vegeta's head in her lap, "I don't think he can even move this time!"
Yamcha's sore gaze shifted down to the Saiyan, giving a bitter sigh. "Yeah, sure." He took Vegeta's legs in his arms, his mouth tight. He didn't even know if she had noticed herself, but he'd seen the way she kept looking at Vegeta, even now as she wrapped her arms under him and let his head rest on her shoulder. The gentle, caring look she bestowed on his battered face was almost unbearable for him to look at. And the worst part was, he wasn't certain she had ever looked at him that way in their entire relationship.
"Come on, tough guy, hold it together," Bulma encouraged, pressing her fingers to Vegeta's bandaged forehead.
Vegeta muttered incoherently as they carried him into the Capsule Corp mansion, returning him to the same bed they'd been trying to get him to stay in since his first accident several months ago. It was all ready for him, complete with oxygen mask, bandages, IV, and whatever else they'd need to keep him alive. Yamcha and Puar backed up towards the door as Bulma got to nursing the Saiyan prince, placing the oxygen mask over his face and wrapping bandages tightly around his torso and limbs.
"Do you…need anything else, Bulma?" Yamcha begrudgingly asked.
Bulma looked back at him and smiled. Yes, there it was, that sweet smile he loved. It stung. "No, Yamcha. Thank you. Except…well maybe you better tell Dad we're gonna need a lot more medicine this time."
"If he even survives this time," Yamcha muttered, leaving to do as she asked.
"Oh dear…" whined Puar, giving Vegeta and Bulma one last look before following.
Vegeta growled and groaned, his eyes held tightly shut. Bulma pulled up a chair and watched over him as she had every bed-ridden evening. Vegeta continued to stir restlessly, lost in a nightmare made of pain instead of dreams.
"Well, at least he didn't break anything this time," observed her father, Dr. Brief, carrying in the requested medicine. His shoulder cat mewed and he stroked its chin. "Well, aside from his own back that is."
"It's unbelievable, Dad," Bulma marveled. Her brow lowered. "And stupid. But incredible at the same time. I can't believe he's lasted this long."
"Like I said," Dr. Brief shook a finger, "A few nuts short. But quite the strong fellow, I have to admit."
"It's strange," Bulma stated, gazing down at Vegeta's quivering face, "It hurts looking at him."
"Hmm?" Her father raised a brow. "What do you mean by that, Bulma?"
"I don't know," she sighed, "Every time he does this, I get so mad at him. But at the same time, I feel so bad."
"Well, you're a sweet girl, Bulma," Dr. Brief eventually concluded, "And he's honestly lucky to have you around. I sure hope he knows that."
He left her with these words. Bulma got herself some cold water to drink and continued to wait at Vegeta's side. She had to admit, that training seemed to be doing the trick. His muscles had gotten so much larger and tighter than they had since he'd first arrived there. He was stockier than ever! Yet, somehow, he didn't see this at all. Every day, no matter his condition, he just walked back into that ship like he had a death wish or something.
After some hours, whatever was tormenting him seemed to finally pass. Vegeta's dark eyes opened, shifting over to where Bulma sat, passing the time by tinkering with some gadget. His brow lowered. "You…why is it always you?"
Bulma looked up from her work and put her hands on her hips. "Well look who's finally awake. You nearly killed yourself this time, you know that? I keep trying to tell you, but you just won't listen." She glared at him. "Well? You got anything to say for yourself?" Vegeta just groaned and looked away. "That's fine, cause I got something that'll make sure you stay in bed this time." She reached into a drawer and held up a particularly shiny syringe. "I didn't want to use this, but you leave me with no choice. This drug will paralyze you, so you won't be able to leave the bed until you're better!"
Vegeta's eyes shifted to her again briefly. "Don't bother."
"Huh?" she said with a start.
His battered hand reached up and removed the oxygen mask from his face. "I said don't bother. I'm not going anywhere. There's no point." He glared off at the wall. "I've reached my limits. I can't push myself any further." His fist tightened against the blankets.
Bulma lowered the syringe and her face softened. "Now don't say that. Sure, you pushed yourself to the breaking point, but that doesn't mean you can't get stronger!" She stooped down and smiled. "Just you wait and see! You let yourself get better again and I bet you'll find you're stronger than ever! Who knows, maybe you'll even be able to do six hundred times gravity!"
Vegeta grunted. "There's no need to mock me."
"But I'm not!" she insisted. She put the syringe away. "I really mean it. You're a super strong, super tough guy. I think you can do just about anything you put your mind to. But you gotta let yourself rest first!"
The saiyan warrior was silent for a long moment. Then his gaze shifted again to give her a very direct look. "Why are you here?"
"Huh?" she blinked, "This is my house, silly, of course I'm here."
"No," he growled, "I mean why are you here? Why are you always here when I wake up?"
"I…" She blinked some more. "I just want to make sure you're okay. You're always so hard on yourself."
"Make sure I'm okay?" She moved back, startled to see him sit up. "Why would you care if I'm okay or not? Don't you know who I am? I'm Vegeta, the Prince of All Saiyans! The one who tried to blow your miserable planet up?"
"Well…nobody's perfect, I guess."
"Nobody's—gah!" He cried out, clutching his chest and falling against the pillow again.
She drew close to him once more. "Besides, Goku seems to believe in you."
He opened a single eye to glare at her. "Don't mention that damn oath around me ever again."
"Don't you get all huffy with me," she scolded, looking dangerous, "Or I'll use that syringe after all."
"Mmmrrr!" he growled, glaring at her from the corner of his eye.
She smiled victoriously. "That's better." She pulled up her chair and started working on the device again. "Now, Dad brought you some new medicine that should get you back on your feet if you spend at least a few days in bed. You really did it this time, you know. What were you thinking, increasing the gravity to five hundred? You were barely able to move under four fifty! Seriously, there's a line between determination and sheer stupidity."
Vegeta said nothing, merely grunting stubbornly at her remarks. Though he loathed to admit it, perhaps she did have some points. The truth was, he had hoped by pushing himself into and beyond the breaking point, he would at long last achieve what he'd always dreamed of – the dream that had been stolen from him by Kakarot and that other mysterious Saiyan – the level of Super Saiyan. It was all he cared about anymore.
But who was to say that this was his limits? There had to be ways he could push himself even farther! Given some time, he would surely think of how. But, in the meantime, he supposed there was no reason he couldn't spend a few days recovering his strength. He cracked his eyes open, looking at the device Bulma was applying a screwdriver to.
"What is that?" he asked, "That thing you're working on?"
"Something I'm hoping will keep you from further trying to kill yourself," Bulma grunted pointedly. She held it up, shutting one eye to give her work a good inspection. "I don't even know if it will work, but I'm willing to try anything at this point."
Vegeta lifted his head off the pillow with interest. "What's it for?"
"Well in theory, once added to the ship, it should help increase the density and resistance of the air. That way you can get a more strenuous workout without trying to make Saiyan pancakes." She rubbed her chin. "Come to think of it, I should try improving the training AI too. Every little bit helps."
Vegeta's expression deepened. "Really. You really think you could manage all that?"
Bulma winked at him. "You bet I can! I'm not just a pretty face, you know, I'm quite good with this stuff." She added a part to the device.
Vegeta started to smile. And then he started to chuckle that deep raspy chuckle of his.
"Huh?" Bulma looked up. "What is it now?"
"All this time I thought it was my efforts that were failing. I never once considered the equipment might not be suitable for me." He closed his eyes and held a crooked smile. "Yes, a simple gravity change might be enough for that fool Kakarot, but I require a much more extensive training regimen."
"Yeah, that's the spirit!" she encouraged, mostly just glad to hear he was changing his mind about his training techniques, "With my brains and your brawn, we'll have you ready to smash those androids in no time!"
"We?" He looked at her sharply.
She put her hands on her hips again. "Well yeah, you didn't think you could do this all on your own, did you?"
Vegeta growled. "A true warrior needs help from no one."
Her brow knitted and she smiled smugly. "Oh really? Well this warrior has sure been making a lot of use out of my father's equipment. And I don't see you repairing those drones you keep breaking. Face it, tough guy, if you really want to be a Super Saiyan, I'm your best bet in getting there."
Vegeta glared at her for a long moment and then suddenly busted up laughing.
"What? Stop that!" Bulma pouted and stomped, "Why are you laughing like that?"
"You're really so sure of yourself, aren't you?" he cackled, holding his gut and then gave her another of his crooked smiles, "I admire your spirit. Were you a Saiyan rather than a mere Human, you just might make a fine warrior."
Bulma held up a hand by her cheek to cover up her blush. "Me? A warrior? Spirit?" She melted a little inside but then steadied herself, giving him a serious look again. "At least you're finally showing me a little respect now. That's a first."
His smile flattened and he snorted. "Hmph. Don't get used to it."
"Right," she smiled, "Well, you should really get some rest now. Might even try to get some sleep for once!"
Vegeta's perpetually cross brow lowered. "I'm not tired," he grunted, rolling onto his side away from her.
Bulma gave him an obstinate look. "Well of course you are—" Her face turned concerned. "Oh…you're afraid you're going to have nightmares again, aren't you?"
"Grrr, I don't have nightmares!" he snapped at her.
"Yes you do!" she snapped back at him, her own brow knitting, "Don't try to deny it, I've been sitting at your bedside almost every night tending to you and I've seen how you sleep!"
"Garr! Why are you always here?!"
"Why do you care where I am and I'm not?!"
"Why won't you just leave me alone?!"
"Why are you such a spoiled brat?!"
"Ah! Why you—!"
"Sandwiches!" Mrs. Brief cheerfully announced, her face frozen its usual happy upturn as she carried in a tray. Vegeta and Bulma didn't look at her, but continued to glare at each other and Mrs. Brief stopped. "Oh my! Did I interrupt something?"
Bulma growled at Vegeta. "Sorry, Mom, we're not really hungry right now."
"Oooh, I see," she cooed, touching a hand to her cheek, "You two want some time alone. Ah, to be young…"
Bulma turned aside, her arms crossed as her mom left and Vegeta did much the same, grunting loudly.
"Hmph!" Bulma upturned her nose. For a long moment, there was silence. "You want some water?" she finally blurted.
"Yes," he snapped back.
Bulma got her cup off the desk. Vegeta tried to grab it from her, but she moved past his scabbed fingers and took his shoulder, sitting him up and bringing the glass to his mouth. Vegeta grunted at her again, but downed the glass all the same.
"Now," she sat the glass aside, "Get some sleep or lay there and grumble, do whatever you want, just get some rest." She eased him back onto the pillow.
He groaned, shutting his eyes for a moment before looking at her sharply again. "I will defeat Kakarot," he abruptly promised.
To his surprise, she smiled at him. "Of course you will."