Trunks was mad. Furious. Livid, even. He had put up with a lot of garbage throughout his life, but he was officially done. His relationship with his father had never exactly been what would be called normal, but most of the time it suited the both of them fine. Trunks had learned over the years that there were certain things that his father simply did not do. It had long since been established that activities like going to baseball games or going fishing were things that the two of them would not be participating in together. That was fine. And there were topics that they would probably never talk about, mostly involving the specifics of what exactly Vegeta had been doing before his arrival on Earth. It was a nuisance, but it was tolerable. On top of all of that, neither one of them was particularly gifted at talking about what they were really feeling. Trunks was without a doubt the more open of the pair, but even he refused to confess to emotions other than joy or anger. Most of the time these issues did not phase the pair. Every once in a while, though, something would come up that would put so much strain on the pair that both of them would be boiling over with rage.
One of those topics had managed to surface.
The younger prince had been in a daring mood earlier that day during a spar with his father, and he had boldly entered into a conversation he knew he should not have engaged in. Trunks knew as much about his father's past as either of his parents seemed to want him to know, but sometimes curiosity was just too strong. So, feeling cocky, Trunks had started to toss a few light comments out to try to open the door a little further. Unfortunately for him, his father had caught on to the ploy almost immediately. Vegeta shut off the gravity and ordered the boy out. Trunks was stubborn, though, and tried to argue his way back in. Things had spiraled very quickly out of control after that, and both of them had hollered words of anger at the other. By the time Vegeta had literally thrown Trunks from the chamber, both of them were erupting in hate.
The lavender haired teenager stormed down the hallway, ready to destroy the next thing he saw. His brain raced back and forth as it tried to decide if it wanted to hole up in his room until the mood ran its course, jump out the window and seek out Goten, or turn around and get back into the fight. His anger blinded him so much that he completely missed his little sister's approach.
Whipping around, Trunks grit his teeth and yelled out, "WHAT?"
Bra shifted her foot back an inch, but otherwise held her ground. In the five years she had been alive, she had seen her brother in a bad mood more than once. She knew perfectly well that, as the old saying went, his bark was worse than his bite. Trunks could get loud and kind of mean sometimes, but he never actually hurt her. "Mommy was supposed to read me my bedtime story, but she just called and said that she can't stop what she's working on right now."
Trunks rolled his eyes. Their mother had always been less than amazing at keeping track of the time, and she had a habit of getting in too deep with her projects. Bulma had missed her fair share of bedtimes because of it. "So?" he sneered.
"So I want my story," the little girl explained. Her tone clearly indicated that she thought her brother should have been able to figure that out on his own.
"Life's tough. Get over it."
Bra scowled and crossed her arms angrily. "Listen," she clearly explained, "I was promised a bedtime story. Mommy is busy, but you clearly aren't. That puts this into your turf."
"Bra," her big brother growled, "I'm not reading you a story, and that's final!"
"Trunks," the small child countered, "we both know how this works. When one of us wants something, we don't shut up until we get it. Now you can either have me follow you around for the next few hours as I whine, in a very high pitched and annoying voice, that I want you to read me a story until you cave and read me one, or you can save both of us a couple of hours and just read me the story now. You can be bratty in ten minutes."
While he hated giving in to his sister, Trunks could not argue her logic. Bra had shown that she was willing to go the distance when it came to getting what she wanted, and caving was the only way to shut her up fast. "Fine," he growled. "One story, no more than fifteen pages, no voices, no acting, and I'll die before I get you a glass of water."
"Deal," the small princess agreed, smirking as she turned and walked back into her room.
With an angry huff, Trunks followed her in. The entire idea of reading her a story seemed ridiculous to him. Bra had been able to read since she was two. She could read her own damn story. But he wanted her out of his way, and this was the fastest way to accomplish that. After all, he had a rotten mood to get back to. "Pick your book and let's get this over with."
"Boy, you know how to make a girl feel special," Bra replied, hopping back in her bed. "Here, I picked an easy one so you won't hurt yourself trying to read it."
Angrily Trunks snatched the book from her hands, determined to be done and gone in less than a minute. "Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess…"
"Slow down," Bra complained. "If you don't do this right, our deal is off."
Teeth ground against one another as the prince tried again. "Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess," he began again, slowing down just enough to keep her appeased. As he slowly worked his way through the bulk of the story, he had to fight to keep from getting fed up and leaving. Soon enough they neared the climax of the tale. "...but then the prince came, ready to fight the evil monster…"
"That's Daddy," Bra said with a smile. "He's the prince who fights the monsters."
Trunks snorted. "Dad's not the prince who fights the monsters, he's the monster that the others fight. He takes what he wants and doesn't care who he hurts. He just doesn't tell you."
All of a sudden Trunks went rigid as he realized what he had just said. Everyone had known that Vegeta had been evil before he came to the Earth. They all knew what kinds of things he had done. They were all aware of what he had been. All of them knew.
Everyone but Bra.
"Nothing," Trunks quickly tried to recover. "You're right, Dad's the prince. So the prince is fighting the monster…"
"Why did you say that?" Bra asked.
Trunks laughed nervously. "Because it's the next line in the story?" he feebly attempted.
Bra studied her brother carefully as a pit began to form in her stomach. "Trunks?" she sincerely asked. "Daddy's never been a bad guy, has he?" When her brother hesitated, Bra threw her covers back and launched herself from her bed, running for the door.
Fighting to get back in control of the situation, Trunks jumped to his feet. "Bra, where are you going?"
"To ask Daddy," Bra cried out. "He'll tell me!"
He should have run after her. He should have grabbed her. He should have come up with a way to dismiss the entire comment as nothing more than a stupid teenage joke that had been said poorly. But he did none of those things. In her doorway he froze, too horrified to think of what to do next. He had just thrown a live grenade into his family's relationships, and he had no way to get rid of it.
Minutes had passed before he staggered down the hall to his own room. His whole body shook as he reached for his phone and called his mother. When she answered, all he could stutter out was, "I screwed up. I'm sorry."
Bra could sense her father clearly on the other side of the door. His energy was doing that thing again, clearly upset. The small child frowned as her brother's comment echoed in her ears. She doubted that her daddy could possibly have been a monster. Her daddy loved her and the rest of the family very much. She knew that without any hesitance. But something about the way her brother had spoken had made the girl need to hear the truth from her father's mouth.
He would tell her the truth.
Conjuring as much power as she could, she banged on the door, wordlessly demanding entrance. When the door did not open, Bra hammered against the door again. And again. And again. Her tiny fists continuously pounded onto the cold metal frame until finally and at last, the door swung open.
Vegeta glared down at his daughter. "If you and the remaining members of this household are not on the brink of death, leave."
Bra's resolve faltered slightly as she looked up at him. Suddenly she found herself questioning if she wanted to know the answer. What if Trunks was right? But there was no way that could happen. Her daddy might not always be nicest guy, but there was no way he had ever been a monster.
When his daughter made no move to further engage him, Vegeta frowned. He had been expecting a demand of some sort, most likely an order for a story to be given to her. It was hardly the first time one of his family members had annoyed their way into his hallowed training grounds. Normally he was well aware of one of them approaching, but his earlier fight with his son had left him distracted. That did not change the fact that Bra had forced her way in, only to back down after a single line from him. He might have been less than patient at first, but that had never slowed Bra down before. Something was wrong. "What?" he firmly demanded.
"Nothing," Bra said. "It's nothing."
Vegeta's frown deepened. Bra never quit, even when she had been told to a thousand times. "Do not lie to me, girl. Tell me why you were so insistent on seeing me."
Bra kept her eyes on the floor, unsure of what to do. Reluctantly she reached out and grabbed his hand. "Come with me," she softly said.
Her behavior did very little to put him at ease. Demure and coy were not words used to describe his daughter. He opened his mouth to ask her what was going on, but the odd moment felt as though it deserved silence. When Bra got in a mysterious mood, it was oft best to let her explain in her own way. Trying to reason, or worse, demand anything of her, she could get so intense that it could make it feel as though the end of the world was nigh.
Silently he followed her back down the hall. On the way he had clearly sensed that Trunks was hiding in his room. Probably plotting some idiot way to attack me, he bitterly thought. His fights with his son were few and far between, but the ones they had were always severe. He brushed off those thoughts as Bra guided him into her bedroom.
The small girl climbed into the bed, pulled up the covers, and gave the bedding a little pat. "Sit," she quietly commanded.
Still feeling as though something was off with his daughter, he quietly obeyed. What was she up to?
"Here," she gently said, handing him the same book that Trunks had been reading her only a few minutes earlier. "Read this to me."
Normally he would have chastised her for violating his training for something as absurd as a bedtime story, but that odd feeling she was giving him kept him from doing so. "Why?" was the only question he asked.
Bra said nothing, cuddling up against his body and under his arm. She would not even look at him as she did so.
Something was wrong. Very wrong. But until he had more information, Vegeta was unsure of how to handle the situation. When either of his children had bizarre behavior, he usually sent them to Bulma. He was the first to acknowledge that he was one of the last people in the universe who should be charged with handling an emotional issue. The prince shifted his weight to get back up, but Bra applied enough pressure on his torso for him to know she wanted him to stay.
So much for getting backup...Reluctantly he took the book from the girl and opened it up. He hated this particular activity, but he failed to see other options that would not make the situation worse. When he reached the part of the book that Trunks had stopped at, Bra stopped him.
"Which one are you?"
Vegeta quirked an eyebrow at his daughter. "What are you talking about?"
The little one pointed to the picture of the prince fighting the monster. "Which one are you?" she asked again.
"Bra, I'm not in this story," he told her, his voice betraying none of his unease. "This is a children's fantasy story."
Slyly Bra looked up at her father, but she did not face him all the way. She turned back to the book and pointed again. "Which one are you?"
Growing frustrated, Vegeta demanded, "I have no idea what you are even talking about, child!"
"The prince or the monster." Bra's voice was so quiet he could barely hear her. "Which one are you?"
Vegeta froze for a moment before jolting around, glaring in the direction of his son's bedroom. Had the boy seriously violated his trust like that? Even though the boy could be a brat from time to time, Vegeta had never once believed that Trunks would break that level of trust. Bulma had been adamant that Bra not know about Vegeta's background 'until the time was right', and even if Trunks had been mad at his father, he should have honored the wishes of his mother.
But as Bra sat there, asking again if her father was the prince or the monster, reality became very clear.
Trying to evade the issue, Vegeta asked, "What brought on this ridiculous question?"
"Which one are you?"
I am going to kill that boy. Vegeta began to push his daughter away slightly, prepared to leave and confront his son, but the girl held him tight. "Which one are you?"
The senior prince mentally hollered for his wife to come back him up. When Trunks had been given the rough details about his father's past, the boy had been several years older and had oddly desensitized. On top of that, Trunks had spent his early years with a Vegeta who was still fairly fresh out of Freeza's army. There were still a lot of rough edges on the prince when his firstborn had been young, so to Trunks, the idea of his father being a reformed bad guy was not all that infeasible.
Bra had only known the more patient Vegeta, the one that was calmer and tempered. He had never been anything to her but her prince.
"I am your father," he calmly told her. "That is what you need to know."
The little girl was wiser than her years, though. She knew what it meant when someone avoided answering a direct question. It was a skill she had learned from the same father that was side-stepping her. "Daddy?"
She found that she could not look at him as she asked. Instead she clung to him, pressing herself fiercely against his body as she stared at the picture in the book. "Did you used to be the monster?"
There it was, a yes or no question that there was no real avoiding. If he tried to give anything but those two options, his daughter would have her answer anyway. There was no point in avoiding the truth.
Bra closed her eyes and tried to fight off the tears. "You were the monster?"
"For how long?"
Vegeta drew a slow breath before offering an answer. "For many, many years."
From out in the hall came the unmistakable sound of Bulma thundering up the staircase. It was clear that she had stopped at Trunks' room first, and soon she was hollering at the boy. And for one of the first times in his life, Trunks did not fight back.
The prince pulled his focus back to the small girl pressed against him. "Hn?"
"Didn't you want to be the good guy?" she innocently asked.
Bra's door opened and Bulma tried to make her way in. "Hi sweetie!" she tried to cheerfully call out. "I'm sorry I'm late, I'm ready for your story!"
"Mommy," the little girl commanded, not looking at the newcomer, "please go away. I need to talk to Daddy."
Bulma slid a little further into the room. "But honey…"
"Go away, Mommy."
The scientist opened her mouth to try again, but she caught her husband's eyes. Vegeta very subtly shook his head and nodded for the door, silently telling her to leave. Any hope of a successful intervention had come and gone. Bulma acknowledged him with a slight nod as she backed out of the room, softly closing the door behind her.
Three seconds after the door closed, Bra restated her query. "Didn't you want to be a good guy?"
A short, direct question with a long, complicated, ugly answer. "Does it matter?" he asked back. "I am no longer what your stories call a villain. Is that not the part that matters now?"
Softly Bra bit down on her lower lip. "Why did you stop being a bad guy?"
Why the hell can't this go as easily as it did with the boy? Vegeta mentally groaned. The only damn question he had was if I was still on the side of evil, and I didn't even have to give him a concrete answer before he got distracted. "Life took me in a different direction," he vaguely answered. "Bra, why are you even asking these questions?"
The little princess glanced at the book. Normally she loved the opportunity to tattle on her brother, but from the sounds coming through the wall, Trunks was already getting reamed by their mother. She sat up and looked her father square in the eye. "Does it matter?" she responded, using his own words against him. "Daddy?"
"Is that why you're in a bad mood sometimes when we don't really know why?" she wondered, piecing things together. "Because of your time as a bad guy?"
Vegeta smirked. "You're a perceptive little witch, aren't you?"
Bra smiled softly, her eyes drifting back to the book. "Hey Daddy?"
Her small fingers traced the pictures before her. "You're both of them, aren't you? The prince and the monster, they're both part of you, aren't they?"
She was more right than he cared to admit. "You seem to be capable of reading this story on your own. Shall I leave you to your fantasies?"
Bra smirked, cuddling up with him more affectionately than she had earlier. "Even if I do know how to do it on my own," she asked, "can you stay and read the story to me? I promise not to interrupt you this time."
Gently he kissed the top of her head. "Just this once." He watched as she flipped the pages backward, and they started their story all over again.