Dedicated to Camaro with love. And to God my Father.
Standard disclaimer: I do not own any names of characters, the plot of DBZ, etc. etc.
"Man, that was so much fun!" he shouted with glee, jumping up and down hard enough to make the wooden exit ramp creak and bend dangerously. Other children who hadn't fared so well paused in their tearful bawling to stare at the purple-haired boy blocking their way.
"Thank you for riding the Vortex. Please remember to pick up your belongings and exit to your right. Enjoy the rest of your day at West Capital Park." The cheery automated voice played overhead again as an employee glanced disinterestedly at the equally bored parents waiting at the bottom of the ride.
"Can I have some ice cream? I'm hungry!" The boy vaulted over the railing and dropped six feet to the ground, looking eagerly at his father as the other children gasped at the feat.
There had been an agreement between them; he trusted that his father would hold up his end, as he had promised. He had managed to hit him fair and square—and in exchange he got a day at the amusement park. The best part was that his father was with him; he had been to the park many times before with Goten and other friends. But he had never done anything like this with his father.
They sat beside each other on a wooden bench, facing the tents where people were getting henna tattoos and overpriced merchandise. The mint ice cream had been overpriced too.
"This is really fun, Dad," he said. He had lost count of how many times he had said that today. He looked up to the man beside him. His father said nothing.
He straightened his tie uncomfortably. The business meeting (or showdown, rather) had set him on edge, and more than once during that hour he had longed to be in his old training gear, not an expensive, restrictive suit; facing an opponent head-on in an arena rather than dancing around with words.
The restaurant was dimly lit, and its walls were tinted mirrors, giving the illusion that this confining space was much bigger than it was. He sat back in his cushioned chair and stared at the neatly arranged silverware and the empty seat at the other side of the table.
The waiter refilled his glass with cold water for the third time. Yes, he was still waiting. The waiter nodded and left again.
What the hell, he thought disconcertedly, unfolding his cream-colored napkin with sweaty hands. Where was this nervous feeling coming from?
He skimmed through his to-do list in his mind. It was somehow kept at a perpetual minimum of ten items. With this month's big corporate deal still in the works and now ensnared in high-level politics, the list was at fifteen. He had hoped to reduce it today with some skillful negotiating, but he hadn't been at his best. He was starting to think he needed a vacation. His mother had always told him that. It would probably be wise to finally listen to her; after all, this shitty job had been hers before it had fallen to him.
Where to go, though? He wondered if there was any place on this planet that could actually be a worthwhile visit, after he had explored several extraterrestrial worlds and encountered aliens far more exotic (and dangerous) than any peoples on earth. Beaches, mountains, forests, plains—all boring. Not that taking off in a spaceship sounded any more appealing.
It wasn't about where to go, though. It was about who to go with. As the heir of the biggest corporate empire in the world, he had had the world at his fingertips starting from childhood. Anything that money could buy—if he wanted it, he could have it.
Starting from childhood, though, he had also begun to realize that money couldn't buy everything. In fact, the things he wanted most were somehow always out of his reach. It was a lonely life being the richest boy in the world.
He learned that sometimes, companionship could be bought. Friends were a dime a dozen, but they were also lost as quickly as pocket change. Women too. They usually tried to cling, though, and that was bothersome. It had been intoxicating at first to have the attention of every attractive female around him; now he wished they would just leave him alone.
Honesty—that was one value he held to without wavering. He was efficient, and honesty was efficiency. There was no use in lying to himself about anything. As to the question of who to go with if he decided on a vacation—there wasn't anyone. He had no real friends he enjoyed spending time with. Goten, the only friend he truly liked, had just gotten married. He himself had no girlfriend at the moment. His family—it had always been awkward to spend time with them.
The seat across from him was no longer empty, he suddenly noticed. But he hid his surprise and merely nodded in acknowledgement of the man who had just joined him. It seemed his father had not lost any of his graceful stealth.
"Long time no see," Trunks said nonchalantly, setting his napkin across his lap.
The waiter came with another glass, and refilled Trunks' glass for the fourth time.
"Give us another minute," he said to the courteous man waiting on them. He handed a menu to his father.
To his surprise, his father told the waiter his order without opening the menu or even glancing at it. The waiter nodded and smiled; the dish was the restaurant's specialty. Trunks ordered as well, and then he and his father were alone.
"Have you been here before?" he asked, taking a sip of cold water.
"With your mother," his father answered. He was simply dressed, in slacks and a neatly ironed black shirt. For a second Trunks remembered that when he was a child, his father had insisted on wearing his spandex training outfit everywhere. It had driven his mother crazy.
"Hmm…haven't talked to Mom in a while," he mused. He resisted the urge to tug at his collar. "How's she doing?"
His father shrugged. It was a relaxed gesture; it looked almost natural.
It seemed that every moment held some new change Trunks was just getting to see now, after a long period of no contact with his parents. It was intriguing. The fifteen-item list slipped from his mind as he observed his father.
The tension was still there in his gaze, in his posture and the way he held himself. But it was tempered, somehow, less edgy, a little more drawn out. It was hard to pinpoint.
Logically, after a decade of peace, even his father had to relax at least a little. Maybe that was it; there were no more imminent threats to the Earth, and no need for a trigger reflex to jump into battle. His mother had always joked that one day she would make her husband into a tame Saiyan, if there were such a thing. It seemed that time might have accomplished the feat.
But the tension was still there. His father was watching every turn of his glance and shift of posture. Since a young age he had had to constantly fight the urge to cringe under his father's obsidian stare. It seemed to burn slowly into his skin and see right through who he was. It saw beyond the human, because it was always looking for the Saiyan.
Underneath the table, he wiped the sweat of his hands onto his napkin. Honesty, here it was. He was nervous because of his father.
He withstood that stare calmly. He slipped on the well-worn mask of the negotiator, the president of Capsule Corporation, and he felt safer. He had had a great deal of practice at this since he had last met his father. It was more useful than a ki shield.
The waiter came with a bottle of aged wine, and his father finally looked elsewhere. Trunks imagined that in a novel, here an author would insert the mandatory cliché of the "exhalation of breath signifying relief."
What was he so nervous for? Seriously, he needed a vacation. He ditched the refilled glass of water for the newly filled glass of wine, and raised it for a toast, on a whim.
His father raised one dark eyebrow and casually followed suit after a second's pause. Their glasses clinked, full of chilled wine.
Going on the company tab, Trunks thought as they drank. Overpriced, mediocre taste.
Neither spoke as the food came on steaming plates. The first bite burned his tongue; still too hot to eat. He noticed his father had reached the same conclusion and was also waiting in silence.
Another new thing. Every time the food had been too hot at a family dinner or at a restaurant, his father had always just passed a hand over his plate, sending a cooling wave of ki over the food, often to his mother's annoyance if they were in a public place.
Appropriate clothes. Shrugging. No use of ki—yet. All changes…not too out of the ordinary, Trunks supposed. It was possible for his father to be somewhat humanized after all.
The silence was a familiarity. There was never much to say. After the age of ten, give or take a year, Trunks had stopped trying to engage his father in conversation. He remembered that as a teenager, he had often regretted the immaturity of his childhood. It was an absurd thing to regret—all children acted as he had, babbling endlessly and getting excited over dumb things. But in high school he had started to wonder if maybe his desperate attention-seeking chatter as a young boy had been the cause of the distance his father kept from him. So he learned to stay silent and seek attention in other ways. None of which worked.
"So…how's training been?" Lame thing to say. He couldn't think of anything else that might start a conversation, however brief it might be.
There was a pause. Trunks didn't look up from the steak he was cutting.
"I haven't been."
The knife stopped for a second on his plate, but he quickly set it back in motion with hasty fingers. He still didn't raise his eyes, afraid to reveal what he was thinking.
He was thinking a lot of things. It seemed his childhood had reinstalled itself; all he wanted to do was ask questions, repeat himself, try to get his father to talk. His voice was frozen. He kept cutting.
He felt his father gazing intently at him. It didn't burn so much this time. It was calculation, not intimidation.
He pulled himself together, remembering the routine he always went through after unexpected setbacks in business meetings. Eyes, lower jaw, hands—all under control.
He looked up evenly at his father. "Yeah, a little," he shrugged slightly. He brought a piece of food to his mouth. "I guess Mom's happy though, right?"
His jaw twitched—minus one point. He forced a half-smile.
"So she misses doing gravity room repairs at 2 AM?"
"Trunks, cut the bullshit."
One subtle shift in his father's gaze, and it began to burn again.
"You can pull the plastic act for all the pathetic humans you deal with every day. But cut the bullshit with me."
Trunks let out a sigh and looked down. "I'm sorry. It's been a while…"
"Since you had a real conversation?" Vegeta said. Disdain was apparent in his voice.
"Since I've seen you and Mom…"
"Since you became like…you've become like…"
"Like the pathetic humans I deal with every day," Trunks said softly. "I know."
Burns trailed across his skin. The human in him was laid out plainly for his father to see. The search was on, as always, for the Saiyan.
"So why did you invite me to dinner?"
"Well, we hadn't met in a while. I thought it would be nice to catch up," Trunks said.
"At a restaurant."
"I---yes." He had deliberately avoided the other choice. A meeting in the gravity room with his father would have been no talk and all pain. He couldn't remember the last time he'd trained, and it wouldn't surprise him if even Pan could beat him now.
Then again—his father hadn't been training either. Why?
The burn was fading slowly. He figured the search had come out emptier than all other times before.
"So what do you want to tell me."
Efficiency. What his father valued most, and what Trunks had to value as a businessman. Great. The one night I try being inefficient, Dad calls me on it.
"Nothing. Just wanted to know how you were doing." He tried to sound neutral, not defensive. Indifference was something he had learned from his father, and he tried to feign it now.
"Your sister could have told you."
Trunks blinked. He had never been encouraged to interact with his sister, who had always been the obvious favorite of his father. He wasn't sure what she was up to now. Might still be in the fashion industry, or might have run away to Europe with her latest boyfriend.
"We don't really talk."
Vegeta took a sip of his wine. "Maybe you should."
Trunks decided to take a risk. "Dad, is everything…okay? I mean, I have to admit it's a surprise you've stopped training, and…I'm just wondering if there's anything you wanted to tell me."
The food on his father's plate was now cool enough, and he picked up his knife. "There are a couple of things."
Surprise. Trunks thought perhaps this might be the first time he would be hearing more than two sentences in a row from his father's mouth.
"The first is what I've observed about you," Vegeta began. Trunks kept still. "This job of yours has done you ill. You're like a domesticated animal, playing at courtesy and cleverness. Even your idiot mother had more character in your position."
This was what he had expected to hear, but he still winced inwardly.
"The second is I don't have long to live."
His father's gaze did not falter. "I am sick. A disease of the blood that killed many of my forefathers."
"I…there's no cure?" His voice snatched the first random thoughts from his mind.
"Human medicine is of no use to a Saiyan."
"How…how long have you known?" Trunks said, still in disbelief.
He shrugged. "About a year."
"Dad…" Trunks half-rose to his feet, fork and knife clattering noisily on his plate. "Dad, why didn't you tell me?"
"Sit down," Vegeta said. "I'm not asking for your concern."
"How can I not be concerned?" Trunks asked, incredulous. "You keep this a secret for a year, and then you decide your family shouldn't be concerned that you're…you're dying?"
"It hasn't been a secret, Trunks," his father said. "The others have known."
His face blanched as he sat back heavily in his chair. "What…you mean…"
His father had a terminal illness. So he hadn't been training. He was going to die soon. Everyone else knew. And he was finally telling his own son a year late?
"Why the hell didn't you tell me," Trunks said harshly. "Why?"
Heads were turning at the other tables, people were noticing he was upset. He didn't care.
"I…I can't believe this…a whole fucking year…"
The sleek-haired manager of the restaurant was approaching warily, hesitating to confront him because he was the head of Capsule Corporation, their most lucrative client. Trunks glared at the hapless man and threw a wad of bills on the table. Vegeta stood up, looking down at him with a neutral gaze. Trunks followed him out.
They flew to an old place. Neither had been there in a long time, to his knowledge. Trunks hadn't thought of ever coming back here—the place he had received his worst beatings during the routine "training sessions" his father had made him go through.
"Why did you bring me here?" he called. Under a dark sky with the moon rising above them, they stood facing each other at a distance, like warriors before a battle. Perhaps they were warriors before a battle.
"I didn't bring you. You followed me."
"Yeah, Dad, I followed you. Because I want answers. How much longer do you have to live?"
"Perhaps a few months. Perhaps sooner, perhaps later. Does it matter?"
"How can you say that?" Trunks shouted, starting to pace back and forth. "How can it not matter? You don't care that you're going to die?"
"I am a warrior, first and foremost. I have been prepared to die from the start. It doesn't matter when."
"Can't you use the Dragonballs?" Trunks said. "You can wish for a cure. You can be healed."
"You are just too human. I knew you would not understand," Vegeta said contemptuously.
"So that's why you didn't tell me for a fucking year?!" Trunks fumed. His energy level was pulsating wildly. His heartbeat quickened, his finely combed hair beginning to rise into spikes. "So I'm human. Why is that a problem? Why has that always been such a problem for you?"
He stepped toward his father, feeling the transformation to Super Saiyan flickering on the edge of his consciousness.
"Why have I always been a problem to you, Dad? Is it because I was born at the wrong time? Was I not strong enough to make you proud? Was I too cowardly because I chose not to live my life training every goddamn day, waiting for battles that aren't coming?"
"Trunks—" Vegeta said angrily.
"Does it take a fucking terminal illness for you to finally be willing to come talk to me? To have a conversation with me outside of the gravity room? And even then, only after a whole year? Who's the fucking coward here?"
He stood right in front of his father, a head taller than him, looking down at the man who had always made him feel so small, so insignificant.
"I want to know. I'm tired of silence from you. You've been silent toward me since I was born. Like I was something you never wanted, something you were ashamed to look at. And now that I've mentioned it…it's probably true. That you never wanted me as your son, and you always felt I was a disgrace to your blood. Do you know what it's been like for me, living life thinking I'll never be good enough by default, because in your eyes I don't even qualify as a good punching bag, not to mention a son? That I'm not even good enough for you to tell me you're dying until everyone else already knows?"
"If you've been so angry with me," Vegeta said tensely, "why haven't you ever said anything? Haven't had the balls to face me?"
"You're right. I should have stood up to you a long time ago. Maybe the first time you ran away from me and Mom. But that was when I was just a baby. Maybe when I first turned Super Saiyan, then. When I accomplished something you hadn't been able to do until you were four times my age at the time."
Vegeta's eyes narrowed, his face drawing into a sneer. But he made no move to counter the truth. Trunks went on.
"Maybe I should have stopped trying to make you proud. Maybe I just should have tried to be stronger than you. That seems to be the only thing you ever cared about—being stronger than everyone else. It never made sense to me. But now I see that my only chance to actually be something in your eyes was to surpass you in strength. And to become your enemy."
The air around him was crackling with raw energy. He stared at his father through the golden haze of his aura. For once, he didn't flinch or falter at the sight of those stony eyes glaring back at him.
"Did you want me to become your enemy, Dad?" he asked.
"Yes," Vegeta said simply. "Because I didn't want you to become like me."
Time ticked out between them like the slow flash of light that envelops one's vision before the impact of a powerful ki blast.
He powered down, strands of soft lavender hair falling across his eyes as his knees hit the ground hard. Sound escaped his throat in rasps; he clenched his eyes shut.
His father was speaking in a toneless voice. "I hated that you followed me everywhere like a pining animal. I hated that you worshipped the ground I walked on even right after I beat you. I was trying to beat sense into you. I didn't understand why you were so sickeningly adoring, idolizing me when you were supposed to hate and fear me. You weren't supposed to trust me or look up to me. It was maddening that you did.
"Mirai Trunks was the same way when he first came here. But he figured out quickly that I was not anything he expected or wanted in a father. And he hated me. Not willingly and not completely, but he hated me a great deal. I expected that. It was a relief that he did."
Hot tears were flowing down his face, his body wracked with sobs as he listened to the truth for the first time, from his father's own lips. Not from his mother's sweet, smothering reassurances. Not from his sister's nonchalant assertions that she would always be their father's favorite. Not from his best friend's comforting advice or the warmth the Son family had always shown him.
"I see now that I could have done things differently. Perhaps I should have done things differently. But I would not erase the hatred you have toward me. You know it is there, Trunks, you cannot deny it. It is what made you into a very different man than I. And it will make it easier for you when the disease kills me."
"Dad…" Trunks said, his voice still shaking, as he slowly stood. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"What would have been the use in that?" Vegeta said. "Everything has gone as I wanted."
"But not as I wanted!" He wanted to punch his father, take him by the throat and choke him, and at the same time he wanted to be a boy again, at the moment his father first held him before dying in the fight against Majin Buu.
"Did you ever think about what I wanted?!" Trunks cried in desperation. "That maybe I wanted something better, something more from you than just violence and contempt?! That I didn't want to hate you?!"
Vegeta said nothing, letting Trunks pound his fists against him as he screamed in frustration and terrible regret.
"I hate you! I hate you for leaving all the times I needed you most! For never speaking to me and always making me fight you! For never saying I did well, for never showing you were proud to have me as your son!
"And I hate you for not telling me why until you find out you're going to fucking die on all of us. Why? Why did you…" His last punch landed weakly against his father's shoulder. He collapsed forward, choking back sobs of rage and shame.
Strong arms held him as he wept, his mind a whirling maelstrom of emotions and memories drudged up from the depths of his soul. There was hate, black and rotten, finally surfacing after he had hidden it in disgust in a dark, festering place for so many years. There was shame, with countless memories of his own childish attempts to try to get attention in any way possible, his father's ever contemptuous expression, the constant feeling he had of being unwanted and insignificant. There was jealousy, that everything seemed to be so much easier for his sister, that she never had any trouble getting attention from their father, that she could be so confident in her place in his eyes. There was disgust, as he grappled with his resentment against his sister and felt sick that he was so immature to be terribly jealous even in adulthood. There was restlessness, and longing, and confusion, the constant state of not knowing why he was never happy when he had everything money could buy and even many things money couldn't buy. There was pain, gut-wrenching pain at finally facing up to why he had never been happy, fused with the terrible knowledge that his father would soon die.
"Why couldn't you just love me?" His voice was little more than a broken whisper. "I loved you, I idolized you…I wanted to be just like you. You were my hero."
"That is why I couldn't." The answer was soft but firm. "I am not a hero. I could not let you be like me."
His father coughed then. A deep hacking cough, spitting blood over Trunks' already soiled jacket and vest. He kept coughing as Trunks let go of him in surprise. His face was pale, his frame shaking as blood and spittle splattered the ground between them. Trunks stared in shock, realizing his father's shoulders and chest were bleeding, his shirt torn, from all the times he had hit him in his blind anger.
Vegeta shook away the hand he placed on his shoulder.
"Dad, I'm sorry, I—"
"You…should not…see this…" he rasped, breathing hard as he hunched over on the ground.
"You need help," he insisted, but felt utterly helpless. "We need to get you back home."
Trunks bent down beside him, pain and concern etched across his face, trying to hear what he was saying.
"Dad…" he said softly, sitting down now and looking at his father face to face. He realized how old his father looked, that he was weak now. He hadn't put up any defense against his punches. Trunks suddenly wondered if he still had any defenses left.
He was saying something Trunks couldn't make out. He leaned closer, blinking as flecks of blood landed on his face.
His father placed one hand on Trunks' forehead as he continued to speak in guttural tones, words broken by coughs. A chill went through him as he realized this was another language—his father's native tongue, the lost language of a dead race.
Tears fell from Trunks' eyes as his father fought hard against the pain to keep speaking in this strange tongue, imparting words foreign to his son's ears. But somehow he thought he knew what was being said.
His father finished, pausing for a brief moment of silence without words or blood-laced coughs before speaking in an even voice, his hand still on Trunks' forehead.
"You are my son. Today I am your father."
The night around them was silent, a cold breeze brushing their skin. Trunks looked in his father's eyes under the graying light of the moon.
"You've always been my father."
The deadweight on his shoulders lifted, the storm inside him quieting as the poison filtered out like a breath exhaled into the cold night air. He took in a breath free of malice and hate.
Now he knew.
And it was enough.
Author's note: The quote "You are my son. Today I am your father." is taken from the Bible—Psalm 2:7.
This story is a follow-up to "A Little Late," also on my fanfiction page.