Those Who Mourn

Title: Those Who Mourn
Plot, or Lack Thereof: The rather author intrusion-esque sequel to a brilliantly written story about Bulma’s passing (now sadly lost to the depths of the internet).
Reason for Banishment: Weak execution of a good idea.


“Hello? How may I help you?”

“It’s me, Trunks.”

“Hi! What’s up?”

“I’m worried about Dad.  I think you should stop by and visit.  I’ve got a term paper due, so I won’t be able to come home for a while.”

“Is it really that bad?”

“I think so.  Bra’s staying with Pan, so she’s okay.  But Dad—”

“I’ll go right over.”

“Thanks.  Bye.”

***

I put down the phone and sighed.  Bulma’s death came as a surprise to everyone—Vegeta in particular.  Bulma was in her mid-fifties when she had the fatal heart attack.  And what made things worse was that she was gone for good: since she had already died once before she couldn’t be brought back by the Earth’s Dragon Balls, and since her death was natural she couldn’t be brought back by the Namekkian Dragon Balls either.

As I flew to Capsule Corp. I wondered what to say to the recently bereaved man.  Perhaps I would not need to say anything at all; just comfort him.

But how to comfort Vegeta? He was not a man to show his emotions, and might take any ‘pity’ the wrong.

I realized that this would be more difficult than anything that I have handled.

***

When I knocked on the door to the house, I didn’t get an answer.  So I tried the door and was surprised to find it unlocked.

“Hello?” I called.  “Is anybody home?” A sound came from upstairs.  I followed it and found Vegeta sitting at the edge of his bed in the master bedroom staring out the window.  I inched forward.  “Vegeta?” He didn’t reply.

He’s in shock. I realized.  He can’t accept that Bulma’s gone.

I put a hand on his shoulder, but he didn’t react to my touch.  Vegeta was very uncomfortable with displays of affection from me, and would shrink back or tense when I reached out to him in any way.  But today, he didn’t even blink.

“Vegeta.” I repeated.  He continued to stare.  “Come on.  Snap out of it.”

A tear ran down his face and splashed on a framed picture in Vegeta’s lap.  I looked over his shoulder and saw that it was the one Goku took on their ‘wedding’.  (Or, rather, it was Bulma’s way of celebrating their 20th anniversary.  They didn’t know it, but I was also present at that ‘wedding’, and took a few pictures of my own.)

“That was the only time I’ve ever really kissed her.” Vegeta murmured.  A second tear fell on the picture, then a third.  I put my other hand on Vegeta’s other shoulder.

“It’s all right to cry if you want to.” I said.

Then the dam broke.

“Dammit,” Vegeta whispered, squeezing his eyes shut and lowering his head.

It figures. The first thing that comes out of Vegeta’s mouth is a bad word. I allowed myself a sad smile.  The quiet of the room is not broken except by Vegeta’s muffled sobs.

It takes a while, but, he manages to stop crying and compose himself; once again his face is a mask of indifference save the trails the tears he had left behind.  I let go of his shoulders and hand him a tissue, and with a few wipes the mask is complete.

“I’m going downstairs to make dinner.” I announced after an awkward silence.  “If you’re hungry, feel free to join me.”

“I’m not hungry,” Vegeta replied, his voice hoarse.  He cleared his throat.  “But thanks for the offer.” He said in his usual tone of voice—cold and proud—the tone of a prince.

“I’ll pretend not to hear that.” I walked towards the door.  “So if you change your mind you don’t need to feel guilty for wanting food.” I headed into the kitchen and open the refrigerator; it is stocked, as it always was (and should be).  Soon the kitchen was filled with the smell of food.  Hoping that its scent is wafting towards the bedroom, I made dish after dish of simple but good food and set it on the dining room table.  I sat down in the kitchen where I could observe the dining room without being seen and began attacking my share of the meal.

Vegeta was hungry after all; a few minutes later, he shuffled down the stairs and stood before the table full of food.  He looked around a few times, then picked up a pair of chopsticks and began to eat.  When he was finished he took a look at the mess he made and—to my shock—began to clear the table.  As he entered the kitchen carrying a stack of dirty dishes he saw me and froze.

“Here, let me get that.” I ran to him and took the dishes before he dropped them.  “You go get some rest.  I can handle the rest of the dishes.” When he hesitated, I gave him a little push.  “Go.  You’ll need some sleep.” He mumbled some thanks and headed back towards the bedroom.

***

We didn’t see each other very often for the rest of the week; I was quite busy, but tried to visit Vegeta as often as I could, and cooked dinner when I had the time.  When we did meet, we said very little; it was mostly a polite ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ as we passed.  In our ‘conversations’, if they could have qualified as such, Vegeta never mentioned the day that he broke down and wept.  I never forced him to talk about it, neither; I knew that Vegeta was a proud man.  He was, I was sure, embarrassed about showing his ‘weakness’.  I wanted to tell him that feeling grief was not a sign of weakness, but a natural part of losing a loved one.  However, since that day he had erected an invisible, unbreakable wall around him and whenever we talked I could feel that wall closing in on me as well, so I kept my mouth shut.

***

Bulma’s funeral was at the end of the week; the day before the service, Trunks returned home from college.  The first thing he did when he came in was ask about his father.

“He’ll be fine.” I reassured him.

“But—”

“I know you’re worried about him, but don’t be.  Your father is a strong man; he’ll make it through in one piece.” Trunks still looked worried.  “And if you try to ask him he’ll tell you the same thing.”

“You’re right.” Trunks sighed.  “But I can’t help it.  He’s my dad.”

“You’ve got your mother to thank for that,” I quipped.

He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.  “Yeah, and I’ll never forgive her for that.” The smile quivered, then disappeared as he broke into tears.  “Do you have any idea how hard it’s been? The profs expected me to go on as if nothing happened.  But I’ve lost my mother, dammit! Don’t I have a right to cry, at least?” He began to sob.  I took him into my arms; he buried his head in my shoulder and an entire weeks’ worth of grief, stress, and frustration released itself all over my shirt.

“Aren’t you going to say hello to your father?” Vegeta stood at the end of the hallway.  Trunks gasped and pulled himself away; he wiped his tears and tried to look brave.

“Don’t sneak up on people like that!” I scolded; in response, Vegeta gave me a ‘go-away-and-mind-your-own-business’ look.  I began to back away.  “I think I’ll leave now, before I wear out my welcome.” Just before I left, I turned around and saw Trunks and Vegeta heading towards the gravity room.

When I returned to make dinner both of them were covered bruises that neither wished to explain.

“I’ll never understand you Saiyans,” I sighed and set down another dish.  “All you do is eat and fight.”

“Not true,” Vegeta replied with his mouth full.  “We do other things.”

“Like what?”

Silence.

***

The funeral service was short and simple: the priest got up and said his bit about ‘the afterlife’, ‘moving on’, and such, without taking more than ten minutes.

Then Goku surprised us all with a sweet and touching eulogy.

“Bulma was totally amazing.  Not only was she pretty, but she was smart and nice, too.  She always ready to take charge and go to new places or make new friends.  She was also determined: she did not let anything, or anyone, get in the way of her goals.  She changed us all: if it weren’t for Bulma, I would have never met Chi-Chi,” Goku gestured towards where his wife was sitting, “Yamcha might have never gotten over his fear of women—” at that, Yamcha turned deep red, “Vegeta would not have had a family, and Goten a best friend,” here Goten and Trunks darted a glance at each other and smiled, “and, most importantly, Bulma saved our future.” Goku paused to take a sip of water.  “If she hadn’t made the time machine that sent Trunks back to warn us about the Androids, then he might have been the only one here.  We will all miss her dearly; each of us has a million stories to share, stories of what she did for each of us.  Goodbye, Bulma.  I’m so glad that you were a part of my life.”

When it was time for the people to take one last look at Bulma before she was buried, Vegeta stayed in his seat, even when the last mourner went out the door.  He just sat there the whole time with an unreadable expression on his face.

“Vegeta.” I nudged him with my elbow.  “It’s time.” It wasn’t until then that he got up and walked to the coffin.  He looked at Bulma with the same face of stone.

Then the expression softened; Vegeta reached out and tenderly ran his finger across Bulma’s jaw.  Then he closed the coffin and stroked the leather top, once.

The pallbearers, who had been waiting by the door all this time, stepped forward to take the coffin; Vegeta drove them back with a single glare.  He picked up the coffin by himself, just as he had picked Bulma up in life, and carried it out to the cemetery.  He set the coffin  on the platform used to lower it into the ground, then stood back and allowed the pallbearers to finish the job.

He remained glued to that spot as the mourners left one by one.

“Bra can stay with us for as long as necessary,” Videl reassured me.

“Then I leave her in your care,”

“Come on, Bra.” Videl took Bra’s hand.  “Say bye bye.”

***

Vegeta, Trunks and I were the last ones still there.

“Vegeta?” I looked at him, trying to fathom what was going through his head.

He turned and was gone in an instant.

“Dad!” Trunks called out, alarmed.  He tried to follow his father, but I held him back.

“It’s all right, Trunks.  Your father is dealing with things his way.  It’s best to leave him alone for a while.” I pulled him in the other direction; with reluctance, he followed.  “When do you need to be back in class?” I asked as I drove him back to his house.

“Monday.”

“Good.  I can cook one more meal for you.” Something landed on the hovercraft with a light thump, causing it to dip a little.

“What was that?”

“I don’t know.  Take a look for me.” Trunks rolled down the window, stuck his head out, and looked up.  His eyes widened when he saw who it was; he withdrew his head and rolled the window up again.  “Well?”

“It’s dad.” He whispered.

I landed in a hurry.

I nearly laughed when I saw Vegeta sitting on the roof.

“Do you always catch rides like this?”

“Got tired of flying.”

I opened the passenger side door. “Get in; I’m not going anywhere with someone on the roof.” Grunting, Vegeta jumped down, climbed into the back seat and crossed his arms.

We continued home in silence.

***

When dinner was over, and all the dishes washed and put away, Vegeta pulled me outside.

“How many more meals are you planning to cook?” He demanded.  (Most of the time, Vegeta didn’t ask; he demanded, and expected a straight answer.)

“None.”

“Good.” He began to go back inside.

“Was my cooking really that bad?” I called after him, trying to make it a joke; he stopped.

“Not at all.” He answered, still facing the house.  “But from now on I would prefer to feed myself.  I can do that, you know.”

“Of course.  I never doubted that.  But what about the others?” Vegeta turned around and looked at me.  “Who?”

“For starters, your daughter.  She can’t live with Gohan forever.”

“That’s true.”

“And then, there’s Trunks.”

“What about Trunks? He’s not graduating until next year.”

“Yes, but after that he’ll need someone to show him where to go, what do to.”

“He can run his mother’s company.”

That’s not my point, Vegeta! I wanted to scream.  But instead I asked him: “What if that’s not what Trunks wants to do?” I continued without waiting for a response.  “Capsule Corp. will be just fine without him—in fact, at this moment the company is running itself quite nicely—but Trunks needs a guide, a counselor, a supporter.” I took a deep breath.  “A father.”

Vegeta looked away.  “It was a lot easier on Planet Vegeta.”

“Yeah,” I rolled my eyes.  “Really great child care system: you either abandon them or spoil them rotten.”

“So what the hell am I supposed to do?” Vegeta almost shouted.  “We Saiyans can only eat and fight, remember?”

“I can teach you how to cook.” I offered.  “And I suspect that you and Trunks do more than fight while you’re in that gravity room, right?”

No answer.

“I’ve got the next week free, so you’ve got that time to learn some cooking.  It’s not that hard, really, once you get the hang of it.  And Spring Break isn’t for another month, which means Trunks probably won’t be home again until then.  What do you say?”

“I say the whole thing stinks.”

“Well, let me know if you change your mind.” I walked towards the hovercraft.  “And if you want a ride, try asking the driver.” With that, I headed home.  This time, however, no one landed on the roof.

When I walked up the driveway to my house, though, I discovered that Vegeta was blocking the door.

“Oh, hello again.” I said, trying to stay as calm as I could.  “Will you please move so that I can go home?” He didn’t budge.  “All right.” I turned.  “There’s always the back door.”

“I thought about what you said.”

“WHAT?” I stopped dead in my tracks and did an about face.

“I’m a prince, not a chef.  But I’ll give this cooking thing a shot.” He walked towards me.  “It better be as easy as you say it is.” He warned.

Before I could even blink, Vegeta was gone.

“Wait!” I called, even though he had already disappeared into the night.

I stared into the sky for a long time, trying to make sense of the past week.

It took a while, but I remembered why I’m standing outside with a key into my hand and let myself inside.  I changed and flopped onto the bed.  After lying like that for a while, I turned over and stared at the ceiling.

“Oh, boy.” I muttered.  “I’m going to try to teach Vegeta how to cook.”

I’m going to do WHAT? I sat up.

“I’m going to try to teach Vegeta how to cook,” I repeated.  I forced myself to lie back down.

What the hell did I get myself into this time?

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