Edited 2/4/08. Sorry, I read through it again, and ffnet cut out some of my words, I found a few typos, and I changed, um, rather a lot of stuff I didn't like in the first version. Sorry for the inconvenience, I really should have done this before I posted.

Aegis

Chapter Two

Journal Entry 10. 17. ----

So he came over. I didn't see my dad the rest of that day, and I think Goten could tell I was preoccupied. We did all the things I said we'd do, including staying up until four a.m., but I think I was waiting for the other shoe to drop the whole time. I don't know whether I was relieved or disappointed when it didn't. I did remember to watch him, but it was hard when he acted the same way he'd always acted around just me—like my best friend. What was odd behavior and what wasn't? Was this an indication that he was being abused? Was that normal behavior for an abused child? At some point I stopped analyzing his every move and started to enjoy the time spent with my Chibi.

Dad didn't even make a showing the next day, except at lunch. He didn't act any differently, and he didn't seem to pay attention to Goten or me at all. He just, well, ate. Then he went back to the GR. I was confused by his behavior. Wasn't he supposed to be watching Goten too?

I admit to leaving my guard down, but honestly? No one could have predicted what happened that afternoon. You know that shoe I was waiting for? It dropped on Saturday, more spectacularly than I could have imagined.

Day 3

Trunks stretched, wondering when his bed had gotten so firm, and accidentally knocked Goten on the head. The other boy grumbled and turned over, his soft snores resuming almost immediately. Oh. Right. They'd fallen asleep in the den. The video game on the television was still flashing "Knock Out." Trunks picked up the remote and hit the power button. The screen went dark and the ensuing absence of noise was almost eerie.

Yawning and stretching, Trunks padded into the kitchen sleepily, determined to have some orange juice before his toothpaste ruined the taste. The green numbers on the microwave's digital display were cheerfully reminding him that it was much too late to just be waking up. Unreasonably annoyed with the appliance, he flipped it off. Not like he'd ever gotten in trouble for sleeping in on a weekend.

Trunks was just finishing his second glass when Goten stumbled in and collapsed into a chair, laying his head on his folded arms. "Morning," he muttered sleepily.

"Afternoon," Trunks corrected with a grin. "What do you want to do today?"

"Mmm, don't care. Z'ere any tea?"

"I can make some. Isn't there anything you want to do?" Trunks popped a mug of water in the microwave and tossed his friend a teabag. When the appliance beeped, he brought the mug to the table and sat down.

As he steeped the teabag, Goten appeared to be deep in thought. "Well…"

"What?"

"Could we maybe spar with your dad? I haven't in a while, not since your school started back up…"

Trunks frowned. "I guess so… We could ask him anyway," He couldn't explain the uneasy feeling he got, so he shook it off and grinned. "After supper though, cuz Dad doesn't really like to have his afternoon training interrupted."

"S'fine," Trunks grinned. Goten always slurred his words when he hadn't awakened completely.

"What about until then?"

"Dunno. Video games?"

"Nah, I'm tired of video games,"

"Yeah, me too,"

"Then why'd you suggest it?"

Goten shrugged. "I thought you might want to play,"

"But I told you to pick something."

"It's your house,"

"And you're my guest. C'mon, what part of 'What do you want to do today?' don't you understand? Anything you want."

Goten bit his lip. "Then…can we go see Gohan? He hasn't come around the house in a while… I really miss him,"

Trunks attempted to keep from scowling, but it was difficult. He did not want to see any of the Sons today. He was too angry with the lot of them, and he couldn't guarantee he wouldn't do or say something he might regret. But the naked hope in his Chibi's eyes was not easily ignored. "Okay," he said finally, hoping his reluctance did show too badly. "Let's get dressed and I'll let Mom know where we're going."

Fifteen minutes later they were high above human sight, soaring in the direction of the house Gohan lived in with Videl. "Hey Trunks,"

"Yeah?"

"Race ya!" Goten shot off with a burst of ki, laughing.

Chuckling a little himself, Trunks shouted as he sped up, "You'll beat me in your dreams, Chibi!"

Maybe this wouldn't be so terrible after all. Anything that lit up Goten's eyes like that couldn't be bad, could it?

--------------------

Apparently, it could. And as he watched Goten attempt to disguise his sniffles, Trunks didn't think he'd ever wanted to bloody someone's nose as much as he did Gohan's at that moment. He settled for wrapping his arms around his friend in a silent show of support and didn't even flinch when Goten clutched him back. There was no one around to see, anyway.

"S'okay," the black haired boy finally mumbled into Trunks' shoulder, though he made no move to break the embrace. "He's just busy,"

Instead of arguing ("No, he's just an asshole,") like he wanted to, Trunks made a noncommittal humming noise.

"Videl's having a baby, and he just started his new job, and Mom's been bugging him about me, and…and…" He took a shuddering breath. "What's wrong with me, Trunks?" he asked in a tinny voice.

"Nothing! There's nothing wrong with you," Trunks swore, tightening the hug further. He willed his friend to believe the words. Willed him to soak them up as the truth that they were. He didn't know what else to say. There was nothing else to say, not that would make it better or even bearable.

"Gohan!" Goten practically squealed when he caught sight of his big brother outside, tending his small lawn. Trunks rolled his eyes, but smiled.

"Goten?" The older Son brother shielded his eyes against the sun, and frowned up at the two boys. "Trunks?"

"Uh-huh! I'm staying with the Briefs for the weekend and I wanted to come over and surprise you, since you can't make it to Mom's very often anymore." Goten's grin could have lit an entire city block it was so big and bright. It was obvious he worshipped his older sibling. Trunks actually had to grit his teeth at the wave of fury that observation provoked. As far as he was concerned Gohan didn't deserve a single ounce of respect; willful blindness wasn't innocence--it was cowardice.

Trunks supposed he should be a little disturbed at how easily he was able to discard thirteen years of looking up to a person as the archetypical rolemodel. Gohan had changed his diapers, baby-sat him, given him piggy-back rides, even after he was really too old for such shenanigans. He'd been the big brother Trunks never had. And yet...all of that ceased to mean anything when he'd ascertained just what part the man had had in hurting Goten. However indirect the role, he'd had a hand in it, and that was completely unacceptable and grounds for severing the bond they shared. Whatever love he might have had for Gohan--it didn't even compare to the love he felt for the youngest Son.as

And that was that. He refused to cheapen his feelings by feeling any kind of regret.

"You should have called first," Gohan admonished, still frowning. "Videl hasn't been feeling very well lately, and I don't think she's up for company just yet. You should go. Tell Mom I'll be up sometime next week if I can make it."

"But Gohan couldn't we…"

"Goten!" Gohan said sharply. "I've heard from Mom how much of a handful you've been lately, and I can't deal with that kind of stress right now. Go, we'll talk about it when I come to visit."

"Gohan?" A voice called from within the house.

"Coming," he called back and disappeared inside, after giving his brother a quick pat on the head.

Trunks looked on in shock. He almost went after the man, demanding to know what the hell he was thinking. He might not like the jerk anymore but Goten still loved him, and that had been a really shitty thing to do to someone who you were supposed to love.

Goten stopped him, and that wasn't all together surprising. He snagged Trunks' shirt and when the lavender haired boy turned to argue the words died in his throat.

Goten didn't look shocked. He didn't even look upset really. He looked resigned. Defeated, like he'd had one disappointment too many and this was the last straw. Tears were already gathering in the corner of his eyes. "Let's just...let's just go, okay?" he asked, but it sounded more like a plea.

Trunks had never been able to tell him no, not really.

Trunks pulled himself out of his thoughts at the sound of Goten calling his name.

"You can let me go now," he whispered once he had the elder boy's attention. Trunks did immediately, blushing. Not seeming to notice, Goten sniffed once more and wiped his nose on his sleeve, before eeking out a watery smile. "Thanks,"

Trunks stood, brushing off both the dirt and gratitude. "C'mon. There's a movie playing that I've just been dying to see."

Goten seemed relieved by the distraction. "What kind of movie?"

"One with zooooooooombies!" Trunks answered in his creepiest undead voice and brought his hands up to imitate claws, earning a giggle. He chased his friend around, moaning and generally acting the fool while Goten shrieked and pretended to be scared. "Whaddaya say?" he asked finally.

"Sure. Zombies are cool."

"Great! I really didn't want to watch it by myself," the lavender haired boy admitted, exaggerating the truth only a little. He could sacrifice a little of his pride to make his best friend feel needed. Wanted. He looked at his watch. "But we'd better book it if we want to make the six-thirty showing."

They took to the air and made it to the theater in Trunks' hometown just as the previews finished. Laughing as they rushed in, they picked out two seats in the very center and horsed around until an usher asked them to settle down. The movie was predictably bad, and not even the least bit scary. Trunks poked fun the entire time, and at one point had Goten laughing so hard he doubled over, spilling the popcorn. The people behind them were hissing and shushing, but the boys ignored them. Trunks' only goal was to keep Goten from feeling bad, and if he had to step on a few toes to accomplish that, well…so be it.

When the movie ended, they headed back to Capsule Corp, intent on getting something to eat--they were both famished--and still talking about the awesomely badness of the film. As they entered the compound, Trunks was very pleased with his success in keeping Goten's mind off of what had happened that afternoon. He was internally patting himself on the back when disaster struck—in the form of his disgruntled mother.

"Where the hell have you two been?" Bulma roared as she waddled into the reception room, hands on her hips. Maybe disgruntled was putting it mildly. 'Spitting mad' was probably a more apt description. "I called Gohan and he said you left hours ago!"

"Sorry Mom, we went to see a movie. I didn't think—"

"That's exactly it! You didn't think! You didn't see fit to call and let your own mother know where you were, no matter that she was worried sick because she couldn't find you! And I might even have expected it from you, but not you Goten! You're usually so conscientious!" She railed, turning her wrath on the dark haired boy, who was paling rapidly. "What were you thinking?"

"S-sorry Mrs. Briefs!" He apologized, in an abnormally high pitched voice. His eyes were enormous, and he seemed to shrink in on himself without moving a muscle. Both his palor and demeanor were beginning to alarm Trunks.

"Mom, it wasn't his--" he started, but his mother shot him a withering glare and he subsided, though still keeping an uneasy eye on his friend.

Bulma either didn't notice Goten's obvious anxiety or was too angry to care. She stomped into the room raising her hand to point at the both of them in the universal motion of mothers in the dressing down of their children. Trunks knew this. Every child in the world who had a loving mother would have known what she was doing.

But Goten didn't. He recoiled into a crouch, squeezing his eyes shut, bringing his arms up to cover his face in defense. Making himself the smallest target possible. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to! I won't ever do it again! I'm sorry, please don't!" he babbled, while both Trunks and Bulma were stunned into stillness. Trunks swallowed the bile trying to rise in his throat as he watched his best friend grovel and tremble in fear. There went his appetite. Maybe forever.

He'd known it was bad, he'd known it, dammit! But somehow, he'd never imagined it was this bad.

All the anger seemed to have deserted his mother, and she stood frozen, bewildered, finger still pointing. "Goten…" she began, then trailed off helplessly. "Trunks, what's wrong with him?" she asked instead, voice breathy and faint. Scared.

Not sure how to answer, or if he even should, Trunks ignored her, and instead went to his Chibi, who was no longer begging, though still sobbing and shuddering. His knees were drawn up to his chin and he looked so very young and helpless. He knelt on the floor beside the overwrought boy, and slowly reached out. Goten flinched when he made contact, but when he looked up to see who it was, he immediately launched into Trunks' arms. The older boy held on to him tightly and spoke hushed nonsense into his ear while he slowly calmed down.

"I suppose this answers the question," Trunks looked up at his father, who was leaning against the doorway. He opened his mouth to say something, but he was having trouble forming words, so he simply nodded. "Take him upstairs and get him settled, brat."

Nodding again, Trunks guided his friend up the stairs to his room. Goten had calmed considerably, but still seemed a bit shocky. After removing their shoes, he settled them in bed, curling around one another, just like so many nights when they were younger. There were no such things as bogeymen, no--these monsters were far more real and didn't live under any bed.

"D'you wanna talk about it?" Trunks asked quietly. Goten shook his head. He was sleeping within seconds.

The older boy lay there for a bit, listening to the sound of his best friend breathing, before reluctantly disentangling their limbs and getting up. Part of him wanted to stay there, safe under the covers where bad things didn't exist, or at least couldn't get to them...but an even bigger part--the logical part that knew bed-spreads were no substitute for the aegis of knowledge--needed to know what was going on downstairs. His first priority was protecting Goten, and in order to do that he had to have his parent's support. But even more than that, he had to have their respect, which he wouldn't get by huddling in any bed.

So he inched downstairs to the kitchen. Not that he had to be particularly quiet—he could hear the argument from the top of the staircase.

"I can't believe what you're accusing her of! Chi-chi would never hurt one of her children!" his mother shrilled.

"Then you explain what just happened out there," Vegeta snapped back. There was a pause.

"I can't. I can't imagine what would have made Goten act that way. But Chi-chi is a good mother, Vegeta. She's—"

"A shrew?"

"She's a little high strung, I'll give you that. But I would be too if my husband was off Dende knew where for months at a time leaving me alone to care for an adolescent!"

"That's exactly why I think it is possible, woman. Look at the brat. You and all your 'friends' are continually going on about how much he looks like Kakarot. He has the same demeanor, the same mannerisms, and God knows they look just alike…how simple would it have been, especially when he was younger, to transfer the sins of the father onto the son? He would have been an easy target—one that couldn't and wouldn't fight. One that could be moulded into the perfect receptacle for every vile thing she wanted to say--or do--to Kakarot. In all the time you've known the woman have you ever known her to show any kind of affection to the boy? A kind word? A gentle touch? Anything?Granted, I'm not around them together often, but at your blasted parties she either ignores him completely or can't seem to stop shrieking at him. I can assume from you're behavior with Trunks, and even hers with Gohan that this is not normal conduct for an earth mother,"

Bulma was apparently speechless. Then she seemed to actually give the question some thought, obviously searching for a memory in which Chi-chi was loving toward her youngest. Trunks saw the instant when she realized she couldn't find one. But she appeared to have found plenty of others, and he could see the wheels turning in her head now that she was considering the possibility. "She never held him, never, not even when he'd cry. And when he was younger…oh my God, Vegeta, when he was a baby... I-I tried to ask her about being so rough but she got so defensive and said she'd taken care of a Saiya-jin child before and knew what she was doing. I believed her--fuck, I believed her and just thought that Trunks was more delicate. But I should have...I mean I knew that it was unusual for any mother to treat an infant that way, no matter how strong they wereI just never thought she might be doing it on purpose to-to hurt him…and all the books said it was normal to be less enamored with the second child, I mean when I was reading them for Trunks, but oh my God what if she was hurting him even then? Fuck, Vegeta, he was just a baby and I never... Why didn't I see it? I'm a mother, dammit, I should have seen it!" By the end of her fragmented monologue, Bulma was nearly hysterical.

Trunks chest tightened, and even though he'd been angry with her for the very reason she was now angry with herself, he couldn't find it in himself to sustain that anger in the face of her harsh self-castigation. 'I know how you feel, Mom.' He gave his parents a moment while Vegeta calmed her with a measure of compassion he rarely exhibited, then cleared his throat to get their attention. Vegeta motioned him in, while Bulma wiped her eyes and gave him a soggy half-smile, which he attempted to return.

"You guys are gonna help him right?" he asked, not even pretending he hadn't been eavesdropping. He was fairly confident of the answer, but it never hurt to be completely certain.

"I want to talk to him before we make any decisions," Bulma said and held up her hand when Trunks began to protest. "Trunks, if he's been being…" she stumbled here, "abused, then I want him to have some sort of say it what we do next. His life has been out of his control for too long—it's at least partially up to him where we go from here."

"But you guys can't let him go back there," Trunks insisted, looking from one parent to the other.

Vegeta huffed. "Of course not boy, but Ningen have the completely ridiculous notion that children's feelings should be taken into consideration before doing what is best for them." At this he gave his partner a significant look, which she returned mutinously. She would obviously not be dissuaded. "Is the brat sleeping?"

"Yes,"

"Then you should be too. Whatever the next step we take, there's nothing more we can do tonight. We'll deal with the fallout of all this tomorrow." Bulma rose wearily and waddled out of the room, Vegeta and Trunks following a moment later.

"Just out of curiosity…how did you make Mom get so mad at us?" Trunks asked when his mother was out of earshot.

"I didn't. Not directly,"

"But haven't you been planning something all weekend?"

Vegeta smirked. "No,"

"No? Then what were you going to do?"

"I was going to ask. However, a better scenario presented itself. It was a simple matter to avoid your mother so that she couldn't ask me to locate your kis, then wait for her worry and anger to get the better of her."

Trunks blinked up at his father, trying to gauge his seriousness. He decided that Vegeta was never anything but serious, and shook his head. "Huh. Guess we're lucky Mom's an overprotective hormonal wreck right now, huh?"

Vegeta smirked ever so slightly. "It would seem so,"

Trunks tiptoed into his room, and closed the door carefully, mindful of the sleeping boy.

"I'm not sleeping," Or not.

Trunks swore he jumped a foot, and when he spun around Goten flipped on the bedside lamp. He looked a bit bleary, but that could have been due his earlier crying. His knees were pulled tightly to his chest again and he looked so…lost. Desolate.

"Were you talking about me?" he asked. Trunks hesitated, then nodded. Lying to him was no good. He didn't think it was possible for Goten to deflate anymore, but he did. "What are they going to do?"

Trunks approached the bed and sat down so they were side by side, close but not touching. "Your mom abuses you, Goten," he said bluntly, taking the risk that the most forward way would be the most effective. Goten jerked at the word, but he didn't protest. "I'm not going to let her do it anymore. Neither are my mom and dad."

Goten didn't respond but he leaned into the older boy, so Trunks didn't think he was angry. He wrapped an arm around his smaller companion, who relaxed into him. "I'm scared," he admitted a few moments later. "Mom's gonna be so mad at me," and he sounded so terrified at this eventuality that Trunks wanted to crush every bone in Chi-chi's body just so that she could never do or say anything hurt her son ever again.

But all he could do was hold his friend while he trembled. Goten didn't weep anymore that night, though Trunks did when he was certain the brunet succumbed to an exhausted sleep. He didn't sob, his breath didn't catch, and the tears that rolled down his face were slow and burned because they were not tears of sadness or fear, but of raw fury and determination. No one was ever going to hurt Goten again, and anyone who tried would quickly see just what kind of damage Trunks Briefs could do.

Providing they lived long enough to see anything.

-----

Hello! I'm really super sorry about the wait, but I got distracted by a bunch of other fandoms, and I put this out of my mind. I did give you a warning though, so please don't be angry with me! I have a very short attention span!

I'd like to thank everyone who reviewed in the past year-ish. I hadn't realized it's been so long.

I've said it before, that I don't require reviews to continue a story, and I really don't. My writing depends completely on if I feel like it or not. Which isn't to say that reviews aren't nice, because they really are.

Also it's probably unbearably trite, but the song that kept playing through my head as I wrote this was "How to Save a Life" by The Fray. Sue me. I'm a trite girl.