Ignorance is Bliss
Disclaimer: Premise and characters are the property of Akira Toriyama, I'm just borrowing them for some non-profit fun.
Trunks took two main points away from his talk with his mother. First that his dad was good now and that made it okay that they loved him. Second that he wasn't supposed to even think about Vegeta's past or his future. And for two weeks that worked. Trunks put the whole thing out of his mind.
Then Vegeta came home.
"Dad," Trunks said, he'd put the whole thing out of his mind so successfully that it was a shock to come down to dinner and see his father at the table.
Vegeta nodded and Trunks realized that he was glad his father had never been the type to hug because he didn't want his father to touch him. When he looked at his father Trunks remembered what it had felt like when he watched Boo wipe out an entire city. He remembered Boo smiling while he did it and wonder if his father had done the same.
"Um, Mom. I'm not hungry," Trunks said.
"Since when? Sit down and eat," Bulma replied. "I know you'll be raiding the fridge in an hour if you don't."
"Let him go," Vegeta said.
"No," Bulma stated. "Trunks, sit down and eat." When Vegeta started to get up Bulma grabbed his wrist and hung on for all she was worth.
Vegeta stopped, if he broke Bulma's grip when she was holding on that determinedly it could hurt her.
Reluctantly Trunks sat down. The meal progressed in awkward silence.
When Trunks couldn't stand it any more he asked. "Did you like doing it? The killing?"
"Sometimes," Vegeta said without inflection. "The ones who were strong enough to fight back. The ones who forced me to reach new levels or be killed myself."
"So it was just about getting strong?"
"Yes. I am the Saiyanjin Prince. Frieza betrayed and murdered my people, I could allow nothing to prevent me from avenging them."
"So it was like Boo killing all those cities to because he was mad at Goten and I and we hid from him," Trunks said. "Mom, I'm done eating, may I be excused?" Without waiting for permission Trunks dumped his dishes in the sink and left.
"Vegeta you've got to tell him the whole thing. That you were just a kid and-"
"I won't beg for his acceptance or understanding," Vegeta stated.
Trunks sat on the counter in his grandfather's lab, his heels kicking against the drawers underneath. "Grandpa do you know about my dad's past? About before he came here?" he asked. He tried to sound casual, if his grandfather didn't know he wasn't going to tell on his dad.
Dr. Briefs set aside his test tubes and gave his grandson his full attention, Bulma had warned her parents that Trunks might ask. "Trunks I know your father grew up in a horrible situation. I know he made choices that are unthinkable for you or I. I think, all things considered, it's remarkable that your father managed to establish any sort of moral belief system, let alone one that allowed him to adapt to life outside of a war-zone."
Trunks chewed on his lower lip. "What things?" he asked.
Dr. Briefs took a few moments to clean his glasses then said. "When your father was younger he was placed in the situation of having to kill other people or be killed himself."
"But he said they weren't bad people. Dad said that himself," Trunks argued. "Why would he lie?"
"Trunks, the people your father killed weren't the ones who would have killed him if he'd refused. The person who ordered him to do those things was much stronger than Vegeta was then, he couldn't have gone against that person, Frieza, and survived. Not then."
Trunks breathed a sigh of relief. "It wasn't Dad's fault. He didn't have a choice." The lavender haired boy scowled fiercely. "Why does King Enma want to punish him for something that's not his fault? It's not fair!"
Dr. Briefs folded his hands behind his back and began pacing back and forth as he spoke, unconsciously shifting into a 'lecture' mode. "That's a question of situational ethics verses absolute ethics. Some would say that Vegeta's actions were wrong regardless of his circumstances. Others would look at the numbers and say that Vegeta should have allowed himself to be killed rather than killing so many...
As Dr. Briefs went on Trunks' eyes glazed over.
"... I don't believe Vegeta could have saved anyone by refusing to co-operate with Frieza, I think he would have been throwing his life away. He spent decades under the control of someone whom he hated, who destroyed everything that was of importance to him. I have a great deal of respect for your father because he was able to overcome the effects of that environment. I don't know the exact details of what he did then. I offered to listen when he was first coming to terms with his past, but I have to admit that I was somewhat relieved when he never chose to take me up on that. I can judge him based only on the person he became after you and your mother came into his life, the gods don't have that option. "
Talking to his grandparents was useless Trunks decided. When he'd spoken with his grandmother he hadn't been able to figure out if she knew or not and his grandfather had gone all technical and examine things from all angles. Trunks wanted someone to tell him that his father wasn't, and had never been, a bad person. That it was all some sort of mistake and no one would take his dad away, that if anyone tried they'd fight so his dad could stay. Trunks' hopes had been raised for a few minutes, all his grandfather had to say was 'Yes, your father had no choice and it wasn't his fault.' But when Dr. Briefs went on to look at things from King Enma's point of view Trunks got the distinct impression that no one would do anything if Enma tried to send Vegeta to hell again.
And as much as Trunks wanted to say anything his father had done to stay alive was okay it was too easy for Trunks to put himself in the place of those nameless faceless people his father had killed after what Trunks had gone through with Boo. Trunks knew he wouldn't have cared if Boo had a good reason for killing everyone, it wouldn't have matter why, because Boo was killing Trunks' friends and family and no reason was good enough to excuse that, they were his and he couldn't loose them.
His mom and his grandmother wouldn't think about it at all, his grandfather thought about it too much. Trunks decided he was just going to have to ask someone else.
"Okay chibis we're agreed on which mountain tops are the bases?"
Yamcha wasn't on the top of Trunks' list of people to talk to but he was here.
"Now remember, hitting the ball out of orbit is NOT a home run. It's an instant out. Bulma doesn't want to keep making new super-resilient baseballs for us and we've only got five of them right now anyway so if we lose those the game is over."
Trunks knew that Yamcha and his dad didn't like each other. In fact it annoyed Vegeta to no end that Yamcha and Bulma even were friends.
"Beaning each other, or more importantly me, with the baseball does not count as an out."
Yamcha was also acting as the PE teacher for Trunks and Goten's home schooling. Bulma had tried enrolling Trunks in a public school but the degree of restraint he had to employ when playing with human children made it torture for him. After a few months Bulma had come to agree with Chichi that it would be better to home school the boys until recess wasn't an issue. The two mothers had worked things out so that Bulma oversaw lab work for both boys while Chichi took them on nature walks. Bulma and Chichi had also felt that the boys should have some sort of physical activity that didn't revolve around fighting with each other and that was where Yamcha came in.
"So, you guys have any questions?" Yamcha asked.
Trunks glanced at Goten. There weren't very many things he and Goten kept secret from each other but his dad's past was going to be one of those things Trunks decided. He was just going to have to wait until Goten couldn't hear to ask his questions.
"Nope, no questions. Can I bat first?" Trunks asked.
"Oooh! I want to play outfield first!" Goten volunteered cheerfully.
Trunks watched his friend fly a few miles away while Yamcha readied his pitch.
"You know about my dad's past right?" Trunks asked and watched Yamcha's pitch go wild. "I think that was a 'ball'," Trunks said as he dug the baseball out of the cliff they were using as a backstop.
"Trunks, I'm not the right person to ask about that," Yamcha said.
"Why not?" Trunks demanded. "Mom says it doesn't matter 'cause Dad changed. Do you think she's wrong."
Yamcha threw his next pitch without answering. Trunks let the ball go by.
"Well?" Trunks pushed.
"If your dad hadn't come over to our side the Earth would probably be a burnt out cinder several times over by now. I can admit that," Yamcha said. "He hasn't been the one to finish many of our fights, but he's bought us time when no one else could have and he's probably the best tactician of any of us. But personally I can't just forget about his past."
"What did he to you that was so bad?" Trunks demanded.
"Trunks drop it," Yamcha ordered.
But Trunks couldn't drop it, deep down he knew that he really, really didn't want to know, but still every time he got the chance to talk to Yamcha without Goten overhearing he kept pushing.
"He killed me, alright?" Yamcha finally snapped.
Trunks' face went ghost-white.
"Vegeta didn't personally kill any of us," Yamcha backpedaled quickly. "I just got killed while we were fighting against him."
"It was an accident?" Trunks asked hopefully.
Yamcha tried but he remembered Vegeta's derisive laughter following him into the afterlife and he couldn't say it.
Trunks felt horrible. The people his father had killed weren't faceless anymore. They were people he knew, people he liked. He couldn't stand the idea of facing his father, not with Yamcha's words echoing in his head.
When Yamcha took the two boys back to the Sons' for lunch Trunks asked, "Aunt Chichi, could I sleep over tonight?"
Chichi hesitated. She knew Gohan had invited Videl over for dinner, she knew that chaos was Trunks' and Goten's third playmate whenever the two demi-Saiyans got together and she didn't want her future daughter-in-law getting scared off.
Yamcha pulled Chichi aside. "Let him. Trunks was asking about Vegeta's past today," he whispered.
Chichi's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Boys, go play outside, lunch isn't quite ready yet. Trunks, I'll think about it," she said. As soon as the door shut behind the pair she turned on Yamcha. "What did you tell him?" she accused.
"I told him that I wasn't a good person to ask," Yamcha answered defensively.
"And?" Chichi demanded.
"Because Vegeta killed me," Yamcha admitted.
"For goodness sakes Yamcha, I don't like Vegeta either, but Trunks is his son," Chichi said, her voice dripped with disapproval. "I'm going to tell him that the real reason you don't like Vegeta is because he stole your girlfriend. It's as much the whole truth as what you said and it doesn't do as much harm."
"And what are you going to say when he asks what really happened when we fought Vegeta?" Yamcha demanded. "I did my best to soften it, but I'm not going to lie outright for Vegeta."
"I'm going to tell him that I didn't really know Vegeta until well after he'd changed," Chichi said. The anger faded from her expression. "Then I'll tell him he should talk to Goku and Gohan. I admire the way they can forgive and forget so completely even if I can't do it myself."
"I did try," Yamcha said quietly.
"If it had of been Radditz I probably wouldn't have done any better," Chichi admitted. "And I've had years of practice in being nice to Piccolo for Gohan's sake."
"Trunks, you can sleep over if you get permission from your parents," Chichi said after he and Goten finished lunch.
Trunks called home and after two dozen rings, hanging up on the answering machine and calling back twice Vegeta answered the phone. "What?" he demanded.
The words caught in Trunks' throat at his father's voice. "Can I sleep over at Goten's house?" he asked in a rust to try to cover up his earlier hesitation.
Vegeta was silent for several moments and Trunks was certain his father knew exactly why he didn't want to come home.
"Do what you like," Vegeta stated and hung up the phone.
Trunks wished he could go back in time and fix it so that he never started thinking about his father's past. Everything could have been perfect after Boo's defeat. His parents were both alive again and there had been some strange shift in his father during the last six months that Trunks couldn't quite define but his dad had seemed, well, happier, for lack of a better description. 'If it hadn't been for my stupid nightmares,' Trunks thought.
Now it was all messed up. Trunks felt sickened at the thought of what his father had done. And now he felt guilty too. Over the years he, his mom and his grandparents had all become experts in divining his father's emotions for the barest of hints. Trunks knew he was hurting his father by avoiding him.
That night, after Goten had fallen asleep, Trunks crept into Gohan's room and woke the older boy.
Gohan considered the lavender-haired boy carefully before answering. "We fought against him, but when we ran into Vegeta on Namek he fought with us. He saved Kuririn and I when we fought against the Ginyu Force. Afterwards we didn't think we'd be able to wish Kuririn or my Dad back because of the planet getting blown up, Vegeta figured out how to get around that. Then he got all huffy when I tried to thank him." Gohan grinned. "Your dad doesn't like anyone thinking he's turning soft."
"You got that right," Trunks said and he almost returned Gohan's smile.
Despite Gohan's efforts to sidetrack the conversation Trunks thoughts turned dark again. "He likes scaring people, do you think he used to like killing people?"
"No," Gohan said with absolute certainty. "Honestly I don't think Vegeta liked much of anything before he met your mom. Not really. In fact," Gohan continued, "I can only think of four things Vegeta has ever cared about. You and your mom, getting stronger and killing Frieza, and you and your mom are the only things that make him happy."
"I guess," Trunks said, before Boo there had been more than a few days when he might have argued that getting stronger was the only thing Vegeta cared about but not anymore. Not after his father's awkward hug and the instructions to 'Take care of your mother,' before Vegeta had died trying to protect them from Boo.
"After I learned about Frieza, about what he'd done, I assumed that was why Vegeta wanted to get stronger," Gohan said, "but that's how I think not how your dad thinks. I only get serious about training when there's someone I absolutely have to beat. Vegeta's more like my dad, they like training and getting stronger for it's own sake, it's probably a Saiyan thing. Still getting stronger didn't consume him so badly after Frieza was gone."
Trunks bit his lip at Frieza's name, everything always seemed to come back to Frieza.
"While Frieza was alive I don't think there was anything Vegeta wouldn't have done to get stronger." Gohan said, he thought about a village of dead Namekians but would never mention that to Trunks . "Vegeta even ordered Kuririn to blow a hole through his chest just so he'd have something for Dende heal; you know coming back from near-death experience causes a Saiyan's power to increase dramatically."
"When Frieza was alive it was like Vegeta had blinders on, he didn't see things in terms of right or wrong, just in how they got him closer to destroying Frieza." Gohan paused for a second until his was certain Trunks was making note of what he was saying. "And once I ran into Frieza I understood why Vegeta was like that. Frieza might not have been the strongest person we ever faced but he's the one that I found the most disturbing. Cell was all about perfecting himself and proving how strong he was, like how Vegeta was about Frieza but with no reason behind it. For the most part Boo was like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. He lashed out at any perceived hurt or slight, I don't think other people were real to Boo. Boo turned people into candy and he was happy because he had candy. Frieza might have looked at the candy as a bonus, but the people screaming in terror or pain would have been the part that really thrilled him. Frieza never hid how much he liked hurting people."
Gohan got up and started pacing around the room as he talked. Trunks got the feeling that the older boy had forgotten who he was talking to and everything else except how he'd felt back then. "Vegeta went all out against Frieza and he couldn't even touch him. After Vegeta was too badly beaten to stand anymore Frieza held him up so he could go on hitting him."
Trunks couldn't help but notice Gohan's clenched fists and rapidly rising ki.
"Frieza wasn't even angry then. He was enjoying himself. He knew how the rest of us felt watching him do it and that only made him enjoy it more. He dared us to come to Vegeta's aid. Vegeta completely out-classed Kuririn, Piccolo and I and Frieza had torn him apart like it was nothing, we didn't have any hope of making a difference. We just stood there and watched! We did nothing! Because letting Frieza amuse himself by killing Vegeta slowly bought us a few more seconds before we had to face him. Frieza made me hate myself for being a coward, for being helpless and selfish."
'And my dad grew up with him,' Trunks thought. Gohan couldn't have been around Frieza for more than a few hours and just thinking about him years later had Gohan shaking with anger and power. Gohan, of all people! Trunks hadn't even thought Gohan had a temper.
"Gohan, I think you should go cool off," Goku said as he stepped into the doorway. "You're going to wake Goten up."
"Sorry Dad," Gohan said quietly and he quickly damped down his power.
"It's okay, but you'll never get any sleep when you're all worked up like that. Why don't you go fly a few laps around the globe to get it out of your system," Goku suggested. "I'll keep Trunks company."
After Gohan had left Trunks watched Goku uncertainly, he still wasn't used to Goten's father being a living person instead of a story.
"You're asking about your dad?" Goku asked.
"How'd you know that?" Trunks demanded suspiciously.
Goku scratched the back of his head, "Why else would Gohan be talking to you about Frieza?"
Trunks felt surprised, this wasn't exactly what he'd expected from the individual his father routinely referred to as 'that third class moron.'
"I like him," Goku stated.
"Who?" Trunks asked.
"Your dad of course."
"Why?" Trunks wasn't stupid, he knew that next to no one outside of his family liked his father. The other Z-fighters were warily respectful at best. The Capsule Corp employees regarded Vegeta's visits with unbridled terror, Trunks had seen more than a few receptionists hiding under their desk at the sight of Vegeta walking through the front door. For most of Trunks' life there had only been two sorts of people who weren't afraid of Vegeta: Family and idiots and Vegeta was quick to educate the idiots. People didn't like his dad and that was the way Vegeta liked it.
"I don't know, lots of reasons," Goku replied. "But I think the first reason was that your dad showed me that I could be proud of being Saiyan. Before I got to know him I thought Saiyans were just thugs, cruel and brutal villains. I thought the only reason I wasn't like that was because I hit my head as a baby and it scrambled my brains. Your dad showed me that Saiyans were warriors, not just bullies."
"You're not going to start talking about how maybe Dad shouldn't have done what Frieza told him to since he knew it was bad?" Trunks asked, his eyes narrowed suspiciously.
Goku shrugged. "I can't forget that he was put in that position because he was trying to protect his people from Frieza. If Radditz had offered a straight trade, me for Gohan, I would have gone with him. Here on Earth when he just told me to kill a hundred people, I couldn't imagine doing it. I don't know how long I would have kept thinking that way if I'd gone with him. I'm glad Vegeta managed to survive Frieza."
"King Enma wasn't," Trunks said.
"It's not like that," Goku replied. "Enma, well he just has a different way of giving second chances. When Vegeta had a chance to change he did. That's the only second chance we can give each other. Enma can wipe away your pt and let you start over as someone new. We can not bring up Vegeta's past and not hold it against him but Vegeta always remembers it. King Enma would have taken that away, given him the chance to be the person he would have been if he hadn't had to make such awful choices but he wouldn't be our Vegeta anymore. I guess I'm being kind of selfish, but I want to keep our Vegeta around."
Trunks smiled and nodded. Gohan, who was a goody-two shoes in his opinion, and Goku, who practically everyone thought was a saint, were both telling him that if they'd been put in his father's situation they might have made the same choices. And Goku seemed like he might be willing to help Trunks if anyone tried to take his dad away.
Chichi came in behind Goku, "And if you have any doubts about how Vegeta feels about his past just remember he raised you to be repulsed by what he'd done. I've had my doubts him," she said with a small shrug. "But you lay those fears to rest. Are you ready to get some sleep so you can get home bright and early, Trunks-kun?"
"Yeah, I think I am." Trunks said.
Vegeta was surprised when the safety overrides in the GR came on line, shutting the room down so that the could be opened. He was shocked when Trunks stepped inside.
"Hi dad," Trunks said a little shyly. "Sorry I'm late for training."
"I started without you," Vegeta said. "I didn't think you were coming."
"Can we start again?" Trunks asked.