Stronger than Words
There was not a word for love in Saiyago. Respect, honor, value, pride. These were words used to express fondness for another person. In marriage, the closest sentiment to love was "You give me strength in battle". Just because there wasn't a word, did not mean that it did not exist; simply, the Saiyans never spoke of it.
The Earth languages used the term love frivolously. For instance, Goku exclaimed that he loved rice, spaghetti, chicken legs, and ramen. Vegeta was sure that Kakarot would declare his love for the entire Earth population if need be. Kakarot was a fool, who saw love as something easy and light instead of profound and challenging. Yet again, Kakarot most likely did not have the mental capacity to comprehend the deep nature of love. This was why he could up and leave his wife and family at any second, not realizing the depth of his actions. Love for him, all love, was equivalent to rice balls and sushi. He probably still thought marriage was some sort of food, in the sense that he felt just as good about eating as he did while in bed.
For Vegeta, love was messy. Love's knife went deep, carving his heart into patterns that he did not wish to identify. Once, when he'd first come to Earth, love was the enemy, one so powerful that he lost the battle against it. At the time, he thought it had weakened him. In the end, he realized that it had made him different, neither stronger nor weaker. He used his strength for different reasons, and that was all.
From then on, Vegeta carried this attachment to his family at all times. Just as someone has teeth, nails, and ears but does not recognize their presence until pointed out, Vegeta spent very little time devoted to the contemplation of his feelings. The complexity of love was there just the same, mixing in colors and textures, turning into shades for each target. Bulma was blue and red, calming, supportive, passionate, and irritating. She gave him strength, desire, and frustration. The boy was green and yellow, creating pride, happiness, regret, and failure. His son looked up to him as he grew up and warmed his heart, but their relationship included the tainted reality of missed opportunities and mistakes. Bra. His little girl was pink and white, innocent, gentle, and playful. She offered newness, goodness, and softness, something he had never known before. Each bond held a different kind of love, urging him forward, shaping him into the man he was presently. They were what gave him purpose and reason. He'd done a lot of evil things in his life, but he did not regret them because everything had led him here now, home.
This always played in the background of Vegeta's being, a chiaroscuro of light and darkness, painting his soul, moving him forward. Love was nothing like Goku's simplicity. No, it was bitter and sweet, killing you and resuscitating over and over. Vegeta was not one for words, especially that of the heart, and so he never spoke of such matters. Besides, a love so bold had no words to offer. He always assumed the others caught on, especially by now, eight years after Buu. So, he was a bit caught off guard when Trunks retaliated against him with accusations.
"You never cared about me as a person, have you! It's always been about turning me into a fighting machine, a vessel to carry on the Saiyan legacy." Trunks stood tall, even taller than his father now, scowling and arms crossed, resembling his father more than he would like to admit.
Vegeta's face remained neutral, and it could have been misinterpreted as indifferent. Truth was, he was trying to figure his son out. The boy had been acting weird lately. He recently declared that he wanted to be a video game designer instead of inheriting Capsule Corporation. The woman decided to send Trunks to see a counselor so that he could deal with his issues. That morning, his training had been poor and sloppy. Vegeta called him out on it, which prompted the onslaught of this claim.
"I feel devalued when you make me train rigorously because I don't have time to do what is important to me," Trunks said, calmly now.
Vegeta's left eyebrow twitched. "Was that something that crock of a shrink told you to say?"
His son's blue eyes met his father with defiance. "Dr. Shinji, yes. It is called an I statement."
"Whatever it is called, it is a bunch of nonsense. I expect you to train at least three hours per day, as my son and as the Prince of Saiyans, it is your duty."
Suddenly, Trunks swung a good punch at Vegeta's jaw, which made the older man tilt his head to the side. Vegeta's eyes flared and he shot back in return. Trunks hissed and cupped his own jaw.
"I knew it! I knew you only cared about yourself and your dead royal position! I may have been born a half-Saiyan but it is my life to build and maybe I don't want to be a warrior or the head of Capsule Corp. Both you and Mom are selfish! I should have been born into a family that actually loves me for whoever I choose to be."
With that, Trunks fled the gravity room, banging the heavy metal door on his departure.
"Son of a Namek," Vegeta cursed. He growled and turned on the lasers. He lifted into the air and dodged the red beams, zig-zagging around the room, letting out his frustration. Trunks was irrational to think that his father only used him as a way to carry on the Saiyan line, a "vessel". Trunks didn't understand Vegeta at all. Although, the prince saw Trunks as his heir, he did not solely wish for him to be a vehicle to carry on the Saiyan gene and history. Vegeta cared about the boy's wellbeing and future, his happiness.
A laser nicked Vegeta's shoulder. He gritted his teeth, and did a somersault in the air to avoid the next one. Dammit, why did having a family have to be so difficult? Massacring innocent civilians had been easy. All brawn. Now he had to worry about communication.
Somewhere, Trunks got the idea that Vegeta did not love him. When? Images flooded Vegeta's brain as he bounced off the wall. Trunks was too young to remember the plane crash in which Vegeta neglected to try and save him. When Trunks was three or four, the brat sat outside the GR, waiting for his father to come out. He wanted his 'papa' to spend time with him, but when Vegeta left his training, he barely spared a glanced as he stepped over the toddler. Could it have been then? No. Trunks' eyes still lit up at the age of eight at every bit of guidance he offered. When he came back from the dead, Trunks met him with enthusiasm. It hadn't been until after Bra was born that his son began to act negatively toward him. He began to protest about training. He became moody. Distant.
It was no mystery to Vegeta that he had blotched up the entire first round of parenting. He was determined to make up for it with his daughter. Maybe somewhere in the mix he'd neglected his son? That, or Trunks was old enough and smart enough to reflect upon all the mistakes his father had made in an alternate way than his earlier years. It was probable that both were true.
His mind active, Vegeta halted the lasers and lessoned the intensity of his workout. He began one-armed push-ups in the intense gravity. He couldn't help but wonder whether his love was as clear as he intended it to be. When he gently stroked Bulma's cheek in the dark, did she know? When he carried Bra on his shoulders, was she aware of why he did it?
Bulma prided herself as a genius but she could be blind to obvious truths. Bra was still young. If Trunks, smart and logical, thought his father was uncaring, possibly the others doubted his feelings as well. Actions might not speak as loudly as he thought. They were all humans, after all. Not as sharp, able to pinpoint subtleties, as a Saiyan (un-bumped on the head, that is).
He remembered how Bulma had always voiced herself, incessant. It had only taken her two months before she began to say that flippant "I love you" phrase. After every intimate encounter, she said it, lively and playfully. Never once did she look at him for reciprocation. Before Trunks was born, she began to reply to his criticisms with "That's why you love me". He'd turn away, ignoring the remark, but he never fought it.
Then, the androids came, and his focus became wound solely around beating them. When the plane was targeted, Bulma and Trunks inside, he stood aside, watching as his future son had to step in. Bulma stopped her "That's why you love me" statements.
Vegeta halted in the air, lifted by his thumb and index finger, number 165 in push-ups. Did his wife still carry cold distrust after that abandonment when in need? Even now, she did not return to saying "That's why you love me". He'd broken that belief. Had he not built it again? Had not sacrificing himself for their sake to Buu revived her faith in him? Had not agreeing for a second child proven his devotion and vow to never leave?
"Tails of the Cold Empire," Vegeta swore. He switched to the other arm at 200.
She'd been right, though. He had loved her. When she'd said "That's why you love me" in response to "You are so loud", "You are so annoying", and "You are a vulgar woman", it had always been valid. Her upbeat audacity and fieriness drew him to her. He hadn't been aware of it until after Cell.
When he witnessed the android Cell shoot his future son down with a full power death beam, something snapped. All those bottled emotions exploded. Trunks lay choking on his own blood, a hole in his chest, dying before his eyes. Vegeta went mad. When Vegeta returned home (a new concept), defeated and deflated, he found himself in his infant son's room, gazing down upon the sleeping chubby baby. Vegeta made a vow that night to never let his son die in such a horrible manner. He'd train him to be strong, powerful enough to never get shot down in the way that Future Trunks had. Vegeta would not relive that pain again.
As he snuck into Bulma's room and made out her restless silhouette in the bed, reaching out to bring her calm, tell her that he hadn't perished and that he was there for her, he knew. All those times. All those "That is why you love me", they had been true. He loved them. He loved Trunks and Bulma. Their safety mattered. If they were hurt, he hurt.
That was the problem now, dammit, Vegeta thought. He finished his last push-up and rose to his feet. Trunks was hurt. Vegeta clenched his hands into fists. Dammit all. The stupid boy was in pain and so here he was fretting over it.
So, something had to be done about it.
Vegeta fetched a white towel from the stash and wiped his forehead, neck, and arms off, and then he draped it over his shoulders. He exited the GR and went to the kitchen to down four Aquafina water bottles. After that, he stood planted, trying to summon enough resolve to face Trunks. He wasn't sure exactly what to say or how to say it. He very much was against using the trivial, dismissive "I love you" of Earth. He was above that.
He figured it would be easier to prevent a problem before fixing one. Vegeta made his way to his daughter's bedroom door. The wooden door was decorated with a pink Barbie poster and a doorknob hanger that said 'Boys have to knock'. Since the door was closed, he followed instructions and tapped on the barrier.
"Yes, who is it?" a sweet voice called.
"I'm coming in," Vegeta gruffly said.
There was the scamper of tiny feet and the door opened before he could. The small Bulma-clone gazed up at him with twinkling eyes. "Papa, hello!"
He reached out and touched her head, amazed at her height. The contact was brief and she giggled, turning back to her paper dolls, the floor littered with cut-out dresses and purses. "Lookie," she said, holding out the doll in a fashionable fur-coat. "Isn't she pretty? When I'm old enough to wear clothes like these, will you take me to the mall to buy them?"
Uncomfortable with the thought of his little girl wearing lipstick and short spaghetti-strap sundresses, he looked away and huffed in reply. Bra didn't notice his avoidance and became enraptured by sorting out the wardrobe according to color.
Vegeta cleared his throat because it suddenly felt dry. "Bra?"
She instantly stopped her play and gave him her entire attention. He marveled at how obedient she was at attending. "Yes, Papa?"
"I never sit down with you to play."
She kept her smile. "That's okay. You have boy stuff to do. Like fighting."
Vegeta crossed his arms. "That is true. I am a warrior."
"Yes, you are very strong. And strength takes hard work. You have to beat yourself to death."
His eyes widened. Who taught her that phase? Finally, he smirked.
"I just want you to know that it isn't because . . . You understand that it has nothing to do with . . . how I feel."
She furrowed her brow. She was only four. Maybe he would have to actually say it. If he could.
"About you," he finished.
Bra's grin widened. "Oh, Papa, I know that, silly. You love me, I'm your little princess." It was said so obviously and with blind faith.
Vegeta let out a breath he wasn't aware of holding. He watched her for a few minutes as she hummed a ditty, fully engrossed in the array of paper clothing. That had been relatively easy. But she was young, clean of the abandonment and mistreatment he'd dirtied Bulma and his eldest child with. She would never know the blood wiped from his hands, uncertainty as he departed to space for who knows how long, his indifferent turned back, or his harsh blow to the head. He would do everything in his power to keep her innocence.
He shut the door gently on the way out. The hallway was dark and vacant, and he loitered in it, pacing, putting off what he knew he must do next. He could either take on Bulma or Trunks as his next destination. His wife was obviously the better choice. She'd always been the simplest person to talk to for whatever reason, whether it was screaming or admitting embarrassing realities.
The hand that reached for the doorknob to their master bedroom shook and he retracted it as if burned. How disgraceful to be this affected by something so minor. He was not required to have this conversation. In fact, he could turn around, go back to the gravity room and ignore the whole thing. But he had his pride even to himself. If he backed down, he'd take on the coward's route.
Mustering Saiyan resolution, he entered the room. Promptly, he heard the water turn off in the shower from the adjoining bathroom, followed by slight rustles. He waited impatiently. Finally, Bulma emerged, a tan towel wrapped around her slim and relatively still youthful body. Droplets rolled down her bobbed blue hair.
"Oh, hey, Vegeta," Bulma said in greeting. She moved passed him toward the dresser to find undergarments. Her fingers latched onto a pair of lacy panties when his clutch halted her actions. She glanced over with curiosity and then a light went off in her eyes. "Not now, maybe later."
He frowned deeply. "What? . . . No. Kami, woman, I am strong enough to wait until bedtime."
Teasingly, she flipped her hair and batted her lashes. "I don't know. One look at my luscious body in only a towel makes it pretty hard to resist. I wouldn't blame you if you couldn't."
He knitted his eyebrows. Was she playing games? Damn Earth woman and her convoluted tricks. Did she want him to ravage her or not? He settled on backing away.
Bulma seemed annoyed. "Look, Vegeta, I've had a long day in the lab and just want to read for a while. That new project isn't working out the way I thought. I made a mistake in the equation."
Truth was he had no idea what she was referring to but didn't want to admit that he forgot or hadn't been listening during the first conversation. He simply nodded. "I'll just take a few moments of your time."
She sighed and gave him her compete attention. "What is it?"
He gritted his teeth at her tone. "Look, woman, if this doesn't fit in your schedule I can come back when you are good and ready."
Bulma glared. "Would you stop calling me woman all the time. How many years have we been married now?" She paused, waiting for an answer. When she received none, she clarified. "Fourteen!"
This wasn't going as he'd hoped. Not that he planned it out at all. He forced his expression to soften. "Yes. We are married and have two children."
"Thank you, Captain Obvious."
Normally, he would have snapped a come-back but he controlled the impulse and fought against the twitch in his jaw. Instead, he relaxed his shoulders and arms. "Look, Bulma . . . We are married and I gave you a second child. Do you know why that is?"
Bulma finished adjusting her white undergarments. She'd been on her way to the closet when she halted and turned to stare at him. "Huh?"
Vegeta suddenly found the blue bedspread extremely interesting as his cheeks heated. "I uh- I didn't do it out of duty. I did it because it wasn't such a terrible future."
Silence followed. He chanced a glance and discovered her cheeks were wet.
"Dammit, woman, don't cry! It should be something you already are aware of."
Her lips wobbled in an unsteady smile. "Vegeta, are you telling me- Are you saying what I hope you are saying? Do you-?"
"You are a genius, read between the lines. Like you used to."
She pondered that. "Like I used to?"
"You used to say the obvious too much." Yet again he directed his gaze to the side.
Bulma reached out and touched his bare arm. "But it isn't obvious. I've gotten pretty good at looking beneath the surface, though."
"Oh, so this is unnecessary then. I'll go back to my training and you read your romance trash." Vegeta moved but her grip tightened.
"Hold on, buddy! You can't bring something like this up and then run away."
He grunted. "Insufferable woman. Wasn't that enough? I don't make things extravagant with pretty words."
She smiled, her tears dried. "No, you are a man of few words and action when it really counts. At least now you are. And that is when it counts."
Annoyed and embarrassed, he wanted this complete so he could move on to the even harder confrontation.
"You are so cute when you blush," she teased. "Like a red tomato. My veggie."
He drew back.
"Did I steam my veggie?" She giggled as if that was the most hilarious line ever.
He growled. "I've had enough of this. A prince should not be ridiculed this way, especially about my royal name. Sometimes you say the most uncivilized comments," he grumbled.
Leaning forward, Bulma pecked him on the cheek and then winked. "But, you know that is why you love me."
Vegeta found himself truly wordless, especially when she sashayed again to find a comfortable outfit.
After cooling himself down, both emotionally and physically, Vegeta hesitated in the hallway. Finally he pounded on Trunks' door and demanded his presence. To his irritation and admittedly his dismay, the teenager had fled the compound. The absence of his son's ki should have been something he'd sensed, but he must have been so wrapped up in his mind's wandering not to.
There were two choices: either track Trunks down or wait until the next day. Vegeta curled his hands. If he put it off he would most likely lose his nerve. So, he took to the sky in the direction of Trunks' ki signature. While a younger version of the demi-Saiyan would have been found at the arcade or the Son's residence, Vegeta locked onto a location in the middle of nowhere. The lavender-haired boy sat cross-legged on the pinnacle of a cliff-side, as if in deep inner contemplation, overlooking a grand scenery of barren dusty landscape. It was a manner that one might have thought to find Piccolo, not a sixteen-year-old who used to fist-pump at the mere thought of going to the park.
The father touched down and Trunks scrambled to his feet. Both scowled at each other.
"Look, boy, escapism doesn't work. I know from experience. Sometimes you have to talk things out."
Trunks looked to the side and Vegeta realized how his son's actions reflected his own mannerisms. "There is nothing to say."
"Very well, then listen." Vegeta braced himself, choosing words carefully. "You think I am an uncaring bastard. Maybe the second part is correct but the first isn't so."
"Yeah, yeah," Trunks interjected. "That is why you make me-"
"Shut up and listen!" Vegeta sighed. "Look, son, I don't make you train because I want to show you off as some masterpiece I've molded. I do it for an entirely different reason."
Eyes dark, Trunks spat, "Uh huh, that is why it was so important that I beat Goten at the World's Martial Arts Tournament."
"You know nothing! You wanted to beat Goten! And, of course I wanted you to win as well. I wanted you to be powerful and gloat over your achievements. But that isn't my primary objective."
"Then what the hell is? Why is it so important that I work my ass off doing the only thing that you love, when I could be doing something more important for myself? You really are just a selfish bastard."
Vegeta punched at Trunks, taking care not to make him fall over the edge of the cliff. It did nothing but knock the kid speechless, stunned.
"You are the selfish one. We are at peace but answer me this- If a tyrant from space came down and threatened your mother would you stand aside and do nothing?"
Trunks frowned. "Of course not."
"And that is why I make you train. I train you because you would fight and I- I don't want you to die."
Trunks' face stilled.
"Thirteen years ago Cell killed you from the future. I witnessed it and vowed to never allow such a thing again. That is why you train. That is why you will continue to train. Every day for three full hours. You will give it all you have, and you will continue to become stronger. You don't have to like it, but you will do so. Do you understand?"
The teenager deadpanned. "So you won't have to relive the memory of your precious future me getting blown away?"
Vegeta practically snarled. "Are you completely daft? I relive that memory at least once every week. I don't want to have a new one involving you. Because I- l-l-lo-"
Trunks shook his head. "Don't have an aneurism there, Dad."
"And I don't care for your sister more," Vegeta threw in for good measure.
Finally cracking a smile, Trunks said, "Gotcha," sounding more like his old self.
"As long as we're clear," Vegeta said, crossing his arms.
Trunks' smile grew.
"Knock that ridiculous grin off your face. Tomorrow you are in for the most intense work-out of your life."
"Yes, sir," Trunks said, not trying to deflate his smile in the slightest. Vegeta smirked back.
When they flew back together, there was a sense of calm between them that was new and taking root.
AN- Just an idea I had in my head. I don't usually like to make Trunks out to be such a dramatic emo but it suited the plot