Disclaimer: I do not own Dragonball Z.
AN: First fluff fic. Enjoy.
The Animal Book
"You really need to spend more time with your son, Vegeta."
"I don't know what's bothering you. I promise he'll love it."
"You are always so proud of your heritage I can't see why you wouldn't want to share this piece of it with Trunks."
Vegeta rolled his eyes as he plodded down the hall, his wife's words still echoing in his head. How did he let her talk him into these things? His arms clutched the priceless treasure of his past closer to his chest as he grumbled. He should never have shared it with her in the first place. But he had shared it, because he trusted her, and now he could never take it back.
Vegeta sighed and paused where he stood, glancing down at what he carried. He had shared so much of it that what he held wasn't even the original; that was sealed away in one of the vaults for safe keeping. No, this was a copy that he could afford to expose to possible damage. Possible damages in this case being a rambunctious five-year-old Saiyan-human hybrid.
Shaking away his doubts, Vegeta started walking again. He had agreed to do this and he wasn't about to back down from a challenge. It didn't take him long to reach the open door of his son's bedroom. There he paused again, peering inside, silently watching the pajama-clad boy playing some puzzle computer game his mother had given him recently. Something about getting a head-start on developing his mind. Not that it really mattered to him; as long as he was allowed to train the boy he didn't care what Bulma did with him.
A moment of silent observation and gauging, before clearing his throat. Trunks startled slightly at the sudden sound, head whipping around to look at him, and Vegeta silently filed that away as something he needed to work on with him. Not knowing his father's thoughts, the boy smiled upon recognizing him.
"Hi, dad!" he chirped, pausing his game. Simply smiling in response, Vegeta took that as his cue to cross the threshold.
"Hey, Trunks. Your mother is working late in the lab tonight, so I agreed to get you to bed for her." True, Bulma was working late in the lab, but she was doing it because he agreed to do this, not the other way around. Nevertheless, Vegeta wasn't about to admit that he'd been dragooned into anything, especially not to his son.
"Bedtime already?" The boy sounded disappointed, but closed his game and shut down his computer anyway.
"Yes, bedtime already," Vegeta replied, approaching closer. "Have you brushed your teeth?"
"Yeah." He scrutinized his son's body language closely, looking for signs of deceit; the boy had yet to learn the subtle art and the former prince was determined to stay one step ahead of him in that arena until he at least came of age. Finding none, he merely smiled and nodded, gesturing to the bed with his head. Trunks complied without question, jumping up and tucking himself in.
"Mom usually reads me a bedtime story. Are you going to read me one, dad?" Vegeta couldn't help but smile; the child was making this so easy.
"Yes, I am. In fact, I thought you might like it if I read you a book I had when I was your age." Again, he wasn't going to admit that he was only doing it because he had been coerced. Trunks was going to think that he was doing this of his own free will, and he knew Bulma would respect that.
"Really?!" the boy seemed like he could barely hold back his excitement over the prospect. Vegeta only smiled more and relaxed his arms around the book Trunks hadn't even realized he'd been holding. A book who's glossy cover was decorated with colorful drawings of many animals that the young demi-Saiyan had never seen before. Such was his fascination that he couldn't stop himself from crawling forward on the bed for a better look.
"Can I see…?" The boy was nearly falling off the bed in his attempts to get closer.
"Of course," Vegeta answered as he held the book out for his son to take. "We—that is, your mother and I—had this copy made with you in mind."
Trunks took the volume with only a few soft sounds of awe, before sitting back cross-legged on the bed to stare intently at the cover.
"What's it about?" he asked eagerly, his finger tracing the outline of one of the creatures depicted on the front.
"It's about the animals that lived on my homeworld." The answer was followed by a pause and a brief frown. "You do know I'm not from Earth, right?"
"Yeah, I know," Trunks answered absently, eyes still glued to the cover. "So these are the animals you grew up around?"
The boy couldn't have seen his father's subtle flinch, even if he had been looking. As it was, all he heard was a grunting affirmative.
"Cool." Trunks then pried the book open to a random page. "Wow! Were these things really that big?!"
Vegeta leaned over his son's shoulder to see which animal he was looking at. The creature that page depicted was a massive, brown, eyeless, snake-like creature covered in broad, interlocking scales he was quite familiar with.
"Yes, they were," he answered honestly, a slight smile gracing his features. "And trust me: Slaegwurms are even larger in person."
"You got to see a wild one?!" Normally it took a lot more coaxing to get Vegeta to talk about any part of his past, but not tonight it would seem.
"Yes, I was lucky to get a chance." It didn't take him long to decide that his current position was uncomfortable, and he sat down on the bed next to his son. "Most Saiyans don't get to see them up close until they're at least thirteen. I was just fortunate that that one had gotten confused and came up to the surface out of season. And dangerously close to a settlement on top of that."
He had planned on leaving it there, but Trunks continued to gaze up at him with a look that plainly said 'tell me more'.
"So what happened?" the boy asked eagerly, reinforcing his pleading gaze with insistent words.
"Well, the only solution to the problem was to kill it before it caused too much damage," Vegeta answered after a short pause, finally deciding in favor of not censoring himself.
"And how hard is it to kill something that big?" At least the boy seemed so far unfazed by his talk of killing.
"Harder than one would think, just looking at them." The reply was accompanied by a chuckle. "See those scales it's covered in?"
One of Vegeta's fingers came down on the page, tracing the edges of the Slaegwurm depicted there. Once his son nodded he continued.
"Those scales deflect energy attacks. And I mean any energy attacks. Doesn't matter how much power you pour into it, it will bounce off its hide like water on rock." Another product of the evolutionary arms race that had taken place on Vegetasei, he added silently, the arms race that made the entire Saiyan race so powerful. Unlike the Icejian, where the kind of power Frieza had only ran in a few bloodlines; the rest of the species was rather unremarkable, strength-wise.
"So how do you kill it?" The book was practically forgotten in Trunks' lap, all his focus on his father's story.
"There's only one way to bring down a Slaegwurm, but it was incredibly risky and it all depends on a single fact." Vegeta was almost as into his story as his son was. "The scales are nigh impenetrable; the flesh underneath is not. The only way to kill a 'Wurm was to leap into its mouth and sever its spine at the base of the skull."
"Wow…" The awe was apparent in Trunks' voice. "Whoever has to do that must be very brave…"
"Yes, the title of Mawdiver was a highly respected one." Vegeta faltered slightly then, his real smile fading into his usual frown. He had used past-tense for that, for the first time. Even after Vegetasei was destroyed and the Slaegwurms wiped out he had still used the present-tense to speak of the prestige of Mawdivers; because there had been one still alive, Nappa. He'd been a Mawdiver; he'd been one long before he became a general.
With his father's sudden silence and change of mood, Trunks turned back to the open book in his lap, flipping randomly to another page. But before his mind could even process the new animal depicted there, Vegeta's hand came down across the top of the book.
"Trunks," he began slowly, almost hesitantly. "Let's just start at the beginning of the book."
"Sure," the boy chirped as he allowed the tome to be lifted from his hands, a happy smile plastered on his face. It didn't take him long to situate himself against his father's side beneath one arm that had suddenly gone stiff.
What Trunks didn't see was his mother appearing silently in the doorway, eyes locked with Vegeta's. The communication was silent, and he didn't hold her gaze long, shifting his focus back to the book as he opened it to the first page.
"'This is a Crag Horn'," he began to read to his audience of two, that real smile once more appearing on his face. "'The most noble of all grazers…'"