When his vision cleared, Trunks hopped to the ground from his time machine. Warily looking around, he tried figuring out where he was this time. There was plenty of barren terrain near him, but finally, he spotted an old discarded water bottle wedged under a rock. For sure then, he was on Earth. Relieved, he finally relaxed a little bit. Trunks then encapsulated his time machine and almost gently put it inside of his leather jacket while he stretched out his senses to pick up someone to talk to.
It only took about ten seconds before he felt something. Turning around, his blue eyes narrowed as he stared off into the distance. He immediately pinpointed Gohan, and…Vegeta? He was already back? He wasn't sure that was a good sign. Trunks blinked in surprise, before focusing more. Krillin was there too. As were Piccolo, Yamcha, and Tien. There was no sign of Goku though, but that didn't stop him. Trunks drew out his sword and blasted into the air, flying straight towards them. When he felt all of the power levels slowly begin to drop, Trunks suspected the worst and flew faster.
Trunks came to a sudden stop when he felt two new power levels that were very familiar. His grip on his sword handle unconsciously tightened in anger and frustration. Refusing to accept the truth, he quietly descended to the ground and moved on foot with stealth that he had perfected with Vegeta's instruction. Ducking behind a ridge, Trunks peeked around and saw Vegeta quietly scaling a rock wall while suppressing his ki. Trailing him were Piccolo and Tien, with Gohan, Krillin, Bulma, and Yamcha at the bottom.
If that wasn't sign enough that he wasn't in the same timeline he had originally traveled to, the fact that he could sense a very powerful Frieza and King Cold up ahead was a dead giveaway. Trunks straightened and then squatted down, a miserable look of defeat on his face. His newly-cut lavender hair was hanging in his eyes, the weight of Goku's heart virus antidote heavy in his jacket.
This was the time he was always supposed to come back to. His mother had programmed this date again into the time machine, but Trunks had been praying he would go back to the timeline he'd left. Now he was here, and all he wanted to do was leave – just get back into the time machine and try again. Except that wouldn't work. That was another timeline in another piece of time and space, created by his interference, somewhere he couldn't reach anymore.
Though he hadn't wished for it, he had at least planned for this outcome. That's why he had two vials of antidote in his jacket. And seeing that Piccolo was alive meant that the Dragon Balls were available…he would just sit tight and wait for Goku to arrive. Then he would inform him of the androids, give him one vial of the heart antidote, and share his unique predicament with the man who had become his friend in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. Hopefully then, Goku would understand and help him make a wish to return to the other timeline. Even then, he had no idea if it would work. But it was worth a try.
The longer Trunks waited, though, the more anxious he became. Frieza was already here, and Goku was nowhere in sight. He checked his coordinates and his time, and then cursed a little. Goku had been the one to destroy Frieza, but if his information was right, he wasn't due to arrive for another couple of hours. Earth probably didn't have that time.
Trunks hesitated only a few seconds before he got back up. Someone had to take care of Frieza, and it looked like it had to be him.
After the hell he had gone through in the other timeline thanks to Frieza, he was going to enjoy this.
"Begin your search," Frieza ordered his men, his reconstructed tail whipping hard against the ground and leaving a crack in it. "I want you to find that Saiyan's friends, and then I want you to show them no mercy-"
The sound of rapid thuds behind him made Frieza pause. He looked behind him, and unconsciously gasped in surprise. All of his men that he'd brought along had been slaughtered in a heartbeat, their dismembered bodies on the ground in cold blood. But he hadn't felt or heard any movement. Stunned, Frieza looked over at his father, who looked equally bewildered.
"This isn't where I wanted to be, but now that I'm here, I'm going to take care of something I should've finished a long time ago, Frieza."
Frieza frantically looked around, taking a step back as he did. Was it the Saiyan he fought on Namek? No, it couldn't be. The voice wasn't the same. But who else would be speaking such bold words to him? Who else had the speed to execute all of his soldiers right under his nose?
"Frieza!" King Cold screamed in pain, drawing his son's attention immediately.
Frieza's eyes widened, and he had to blink several times to make sure he was not imagining things. But this was nothing but horrifying reality. That was his father, ruler of the largest empire in existence, the powerful King Cold, helplessly sprawled out on his stomach on the dirt ground. And that was not Goku who was keeping him pinned there with an immovable boot to the back of his head, along with a sword ruthlessly driven into his father's back like a stake to keep him in place.
When Trunks looked up and they made eye contact, Frieza went cold with fear. The boy's hair was a wavy gold, and those teal eyes were the same as Goku's. Frieza nearly stumbled backwards, unable to speak or make a move to help his father who was writhing in agony on the ground.
"Do you know what it's like to be forced to watch your father be beaten down right in front of you within an inch of his life, while you couldn't do a damn thing to stop it?" Trunks angrily demanded. Frieza took another step back, stuttering for words. That look in Trunks' teal eyes was darker, more murderous than the look Goku had after he killed his short bald friend on Namek. "Do you have any idea what it's like waiting for days to see if your father will survive the worst beating of his life?"
"Who the hell are you?" Frieza finally demanded. Empowered after finding his voice, he growled and stepped forward, his tail cracking the ground. "You fool! You're going to pay-!"
"No. You and your father are going to pay. You both die, right here, right now," Trunks announced matter-of-factly. He roughly yanked his now-bloodied sword out of King Cold, earning a shout of pain from the lord.
That was all he had time to do before Frieza suddenly fired a powerful blast of red ki right at him, causing a massive explosion that could be seen and felt for miles, with Trunks right at the center of it. Not so far away, a group of warriors had to drop to the ground as the pressure wave from the blast struck them a moment later.
"Whoa! Seems like someone's started the party without us, you guys!" Krillin yelled, shielding his head from the flying debris.
"Must be my dad!" Gohan yelled back, shielding his eyes as he tried raising his head. "No one else would try to fight Frieza alone!"
"Shut up!" Vegeta snapped at both of them. "Whoever that is over there with Frieza and his father is stronger than Frieza and Kakarot combined, so drop it already!"
"Do you know who it is? Maybe it's someone who came with him from space?" Piccolo asked, briefly making eye contact with Vegeta. The prince shook his head.
"I don't know who could be that strong, but I know for sure it's not Kakarot-"
"If this is you guys trying to be quiet, I'd hate to see you all being loud," a joking voice cut in from behind all of them. All of the warriors spun around in surprise. Trunks was standing there, a hint of a smile on his face. His hair was lavender and his eyes were a clear blue again. There was no sword in his hand, but there was some blood smearing his jacket. He wiped it off casually.
"Don't worry. I'm not here to hurt any of you. I'm actually just here to talk to Goku, but he's not going to be here for a couple hours. So I figured I'd take care of Frieza for you guys. Turns out though, that I need a little help to finish him off for good. What do you guys say? Any of you up for it?"
He was met with suspicious silence while everyone exchanged glances. No one knew who this stranger was, but before anyone could voice otherwise, Trunks made eye contact with Vegeta and smirked.
"What about you?" Trunks asked, tilting his head a little and looking over his father's pink shirt. He had to resist the urge to laugh out loud. "You're Vegeta, aren't you? Prince of Saiyans?"
Everyone looked back at Vegeta, who had a look of wary distrust on his face. He clenched his fists instinctively, drawing back a little as he squared himself for battle.
"And you know this how?"
"Your reputation precedes you," Trunks said, his smirk spreading into a smile as he echoed the words Vegeta had used a long time ago. Vegeta's glare darkened at that response, but Trunks ignored it as he continued, "Well, you can help me out, or you can just stay here with the other Earthlings. Your call, Vegeta."
"Wait, who are-?" Vegeta started, but Trunks was already flying back over to Frieza's flagship. Vegeta was left stunned, blinking a few times as he tried figuring out what that had been about as everyone gathered closer to him.
"You don't know him, do you?" Piccolo deduced as he studied the prince carefully. Vegeta stayed silent, his mind racing. The way the boy talked to him, with such ease and familiarity, it was as though they had history. Had they met before? He slowly shook his head.
"No. At least, I don't remember him if we've met before," Vegeta reluctantly admitted.
"Guys, you feel that?" Gohan asked, looking to where Trunks had flown off to. "I can BARELY feel Frieza! I don't think that guy was lying!"
"Yeah, you're right!" Krillin chimed in. "That other guy he was with is already dead!"
"But that doesn't make sense," Tien added, frowning in thought as he suspiciously looked back towards Vegeta. "If this guy's already killed the other powerful alien Frieza came with, and he's already got Frieza down and weakened enough to kill him, then why does he need help?"
"More specifically, why does he need Vegeta's help?" Yamcha demanded.
"Oh would you guys just knock it off! This isn't some big conspiracy!" Bulma snapped at both of them, before looking back at Vegeta and taking in the confused look on his face as he stared into the distance. She gestured towards the prince, "Look at him! It's obvious that Vegeta doesn't know who that guy is. So drop it, you insecure morons."
Yamcha huffed a little, embarrassed with her response, but Vegeta wasn't paying any of them any attention. He was rapidly replaying old missions in his mind, old conversations, trying to figure out where he might have met this boy before. He was so lost in his thoughts that he was visibly startled when Trunks mockingly yelled back at him.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Don't tell me you're scared."
Vegeta grit his teeth angrily as his blue ki exploded brightly around him. Without further hesitation, he took off right after Trunks. Everyone else glanced at each other, but then Gohan took off without a word after them, just in case it was some kind of trap. Krillin and Piccolo immediately followed suit.
They all descended several moments later, wide-eyed at what they saw. Kind Cold was sprawled out on the ground in a pool of blood, obviously dead and in a gruesome way, with something that could have only been done with a sword. The explosion from Frieza's desperation blast had cleared all of the dead bodies of the mutilated soldiers, but there were still some traces of blood that could be seen by everyone. About forty yards away, Trunks was sitting casually on a rock. He had the bottom of his boot firmly on the handle of his sword – the sword that was currently impaling Frieza right in the chest. The tyrant was trying in vain to move, but the more he did, the more Trunks subtly pushed the sword further down.
Vegeta hesitated for a second, before eternal curiosity won. He was the only one who crossed the distance over to them. It was only when he was standing in front of Trunks and Frieza that he finally saw the true extent of the damage. Frieza's tail and his right leg had been sliced off completely, and his hands were shattered and destroyed. The tyrant looked positively incensed, shaking with his rage while he tried in vain to just get off the ground. But there was fear in his eyes, and Vegeta could barely believe it. Never in his life had he seen Frieza with that look in his eyes. The prince then glanced back at Trunks with suspicion as he wondered how a boy his age could have the power to strike fear into Frieza.
"I heard a story once," Trunks said, easily keeping Frieza pinned down while they both ignored his weak attempts to speak. "That you were the one destined to kill him. Is that true?"
It took a few moments before Vegeta responded. He shook his head, and his jaw set as he looked away. "It doesn't matter anymore. I had my chance, and I failed. You started this fight, so you deserve to finish it."
"He tortured my father almost his whole life. Hurt him right in front of me and I couldn't do a damn thing about it. In a different time and place, he managed to kill him. I would love to do this and end Frieza for good," Trunks admitted, a deep scowl on his face.
"Then do it. What the hell do you need from me? My fucking permission?" Vegeta sneered, making Trunks bite back a smile. This wasn't his father, but at the same time, it was. Trunks looked back down at Frieza, schooling his features into indifference as he shrugged.
"Nah, I don't need anything from you, Vegeta. I just thought maybe you would want the chance to kill him."
"Like I said. It's your fight, so it's your kill."
"What if I don't finish it? Then you'll have to step in."
"If you don't finish this, then you're a damn fool."
"Maybe so, but at least I'm not in a pink shirt."
Vegeta growled and opened his mouth to respond, but before he could, Trunks roughly pulled out his sword from Frieza's midsection. The tyrant seemed to sputter to life, struggling to raise his head, but before Vegeta could even register the motion, Trunks already had him pinned back down. The prince flinched back a little, his eyes wide when he saw Trunks' boot firmly lodged into Frieza's throat. The boy was applying brutal pressure, and they both heard things beginning to break underneath his boot. Trunks almost sneered in disgust down at Frieza. He would have given up everything he owned for another shot at the tyrant, the one who had killed him in a cheap shot from behind. But this version of Frieza wasn't as strong. In fact, this version was pathetic in comparison.
"Guess I'm a fool then," Trunks finally grumbled, extending his sword to Vegeta. The prince stared at the sword with an intensity that Trunks recognized all too well. He did want this. He wanted this more than he wanted to defeat Goku in battle. Vegeta looked up and made eye contact with Trunks, searching his eyes with fine-tuned scrutiny.
"Have we met before?"
Vegeta's eyes narrowed angrily. "Don't lie to me."
"I'm not. I've only heard of you. Anyone who has been in space for as long as I have, has heard of you."
Vegeta frowned in distrust, but he seemed to accept that. After some time of awkward silence between them, Trunks sighed as he silently chastised himself. He had wanted to provide his father with closure in this timeline, a small bit of the closure he had experienced in the altered timeline. But he was just being foolish. He had been so careful not to chance things in the past, and now here he was. Being reckless and changing things already in this new timeline before Goku had even shown up.
"Alright, look," Trunks conceded. "I shouldn't have asked you to do this. I wasn't thinking clearly. I'll just finish Frieza myself-"
"I got it now, imbecile," Vegeta snapped, snatching the sword out of his son's hand. "Stand aside."
Trunks leaned away, though he kept his boot firmly on Frieza's throat to hold him in place. The tyrant was still writhing in pain, unable to move from Trunks' attack through his midsection. Vegeta flipped the sword over, grabbed it by the handle, and then aimed it down right over Frieza's face. Both he and Trunks were uncaring as Frieza attempted to beg for mercy through a mouth full of blood. As Vegeta pulled the sword up, Trunks hoped this small change wouldn't alter things too much in this timeline.
For once, he didn't need to worry.
Meanwhile, in another wrinkle of space and time, Bulma was at her computer, typing in a mad rush while someone very impatient was waiting on the other end of her headset.
"Well?" the rough voice angrily demanded.
"Oh, would you just wait for once in your life, Mr. Lord of the Universe?" Bulma snapped. "I almost have it!"
"Hurry the hell up, woman, I don't have time for your bullshit right now-"
"Okay, I got it, I got it. Now, let's see. If you leave within the next 18 hours, you'll get here on time. Trunks said the androids would be here a week from today at 10am-"
"I know what the boy said. I was there when he said it," Vegeta sneered. He exhaled slowly, making static ruffle up on her end. There was silence for about ten seconds, before he hesitantly asked, "Has Trunks…?"
"No. He hasn't come back yet," Bulma quietly answered, her eyes drifting to the time and date on her laptop. "But I'll get in touch with you when he does-"
"18 hours, correct?"
"Yeah, 18 hours should be okay-"
With that, Vegeta abruptly ended the connection. Bulma angrily pulled off the headset, letting it drop on her desk. She sighed, brushing some blue bangs out of her face while she tried not to think about the upcoming week. Her only hope was that Vegeta stood by his word and made it on time. Slowly, the heiress rotated her neck to crack it and relieve some stress, when someone roughly grabbed her shoulder from behind. Bulma shrieked in fright, before whirling around and finding herself face to face with Yamcha, who offered her a sheepish grin.
"What gives, Yamcha! I thought you might've been the androids!" Bulma yelled, making him laugh. He was carrying a six-month-old baby in one arm, a little boy with bright blue eyes and a black beanie cap on his head. The boy smiled at the sight of Bulma as Yamcha handed him over.
"You're about a week ahead of time, B. Besides, someone wanted their mom pretty bad."
"Well, who knows. Everything's changed so much since Trunks got here, maybe the date has changed too. Hey little guy!" Bulma brightly said once she caught her breath. She reached out and took the baby from Yamcha's arms, and then turned back to her laptop while she sat him securely on her lap. "Damn," she quietly said. "Maybe I should've told him he had to leave in 12 hours, or maybe 8-"
"You were talking to Vegeta?" Yamcha asked, his friendly tone gone now.
"Yamcha, seriously, don't start. He just needed to know how much time he had left. We still need him to show up, you know."
Yamcha shrugged with indifference, but his tone was icy as he said, "I don't see why. We're all been training hard for over three years now. Goku has already ascended, and he hasn't come down with whatever that weird virus was."
"Raditz and Vegeta helped with that."
"Well…alright, fine, but listen. Goku is all we really need. Remember, we didn't even have those two in Trunks' timeline to fight."
"Yeah, but still, Yamcha. We can use all the help we can get."
"Well, at least make sure that the connection is secure. Remember what happened the last time someone hacked into Vegeta's scouter two years ago? This whole planet was almost destroyed!" Yamcha snorted before mumbling, "Forget the androids, Vegeta's enemies are worse."
"I know," Bulma softly said, her eyes drifting back to the computer screen. Leaning down, she kissed her son gently on top of his head while the baby played with her headset.
"Hey, I have an idea," Yamcha brightly said. "How about we forget about Vegeta, about the androids, about all this doom and gloom and do something on our own? Just us. Let's go out to dinner, right now! What do you say?"
"That's all well and good, but what about the baby?"
"We'll bring him with us! It'll be great! Hang on, I'll go see if I can get us a reservation."
"Alright," Bulma said with a small laugh. "Maybe a day out would be good. Have to have a little fun before the next threat to the Earth, right kiddo? Okay, you can't tug on Mommy's headset. You're going to break it…"
Bulma pulled the headset away from her little boy's hands, setting it aside. The boy reached out, giving a cry of frustration that she had taken his new toy away. When he couldn't reach it with his small hands, Bulma felt a wiggling in her lap as a brown tail emerged. Before she could pull the headset further away, her son had already snatched it up with his tail. He laughed in delight as he got his toy back in his small hands.
"Man. I still have to get used to this extra limb of yours, kid," Bulma joked, looking her little boy over while he clumsily put the headset up to his ear, as though wanting to speak to his father. His tail was lashing happily by her leg, and she gently touched the soft fur.
He looked just like her son from the future, except for the presence of his tail. Vegeta had won the battle when it came to that, and Bulma had won the naming battle, which was no small feat. And she had also gotten a son she had once thought impossible. It still boggled her mind how her Trunks had come to be – he certainly hadn't been planned (in any timeline, she supposed), but she wouldn't change a thing. Even though Vegeta had never seen the boy, and had shown no desire to do so, she still wouldn't take anything back. Plus, she had hope that the prince would come around. After all, stranger things had happened over the last few years.
But for now, all that mattered was that they got past the androids. They had already dealt with a couple of new, dangerous threats over the last few years, most of which had developed directly because of Vegeta's powerful position in the universe. And now they were going to be challenged again. She just hoped her friends could alter history one more time, for the better, and change how things would play out at the hands of the androids. Trunks had given them that fighting chance.
And with Earth's group of special forces, one chance was all they ever needed.
A/N: Just wanted to take a beat and thank those of you still reading for sticking with me through some long update times and some ugly writer's block. This story is by far the hardest thing I've ever written. You guys are a great group to write for, and I appreciate the support!
Regarding a sequel. I'd be lying if I said I haven't seriously thought about one that covers this "missing years" gap in this alternate timeline I've created, focusing on Vegeta and Bulma. Needless to say it'd be a whole different flavor to your typical "three year" fics, haha. Darker, more action, etc. But, I also have ideas for two other new fics too (thinking of a Vegeta-centered fic when he's around 17ish working for Frieza, and thinking of a dark, gritty all-human (not school) AU featuring a lot of the DBZ gang). All three would be lots and lots of fun to write. Anyways, I haven't decided on anything, but we'll see. :) Thanks again for reading!