It takes a lot to unnerve Vegeta. But the long, red mark on his son's face definitely does. Rated M.
Bulma's horrified cry made Vegeta look up from his pancakes, but it was what he saw that made him set his fork down on the table abruptly. He stayed rooted where he was as his woman knelt down in front of their son, hand cupping his face delicately, not quite daring to touch the long, angry red mark that split his otherwise flawless cheek. Trunks was scowling guiltily, flushing at the attention, and not meeting anyone's eyes.
"Sweetie, what happened?"
Vegeta was just as horrified as the woman, for nothing human could have made such a deep gouge in the skin of a Saiyan, half breed though he was. The longer Trunks stayed silent the more Vegeta's stomach tied itself up in knots, for had it simply been some sort of accident with Goten the boy would have been laughing off his mother's concern, not staring sullenly at the floor. Vegeta stood abruptly.
"Gravity Room, now."
His tone brooked no arguments, but still Trunks hesitated, and Vegeta was forced to grab his son by the arm and drag him there himself. He half expected Bulma to object with her usual loud threats flung at his retreating back, and when none came it set him even more on edge. Once father and son were ensconced in the chamber, Trunks shrugged out of Vegeta's grip and stood, hunched, facing away from him.
"Explain," Vegeta commanded, and folded his arms over his chest. Never had the sight of his son ignited such an overpowering protective instinct in him; he could send the boy into battle without a twinge of regret, but the strange way Trunks was refusing to meet his eyes made his blood run cold. Something had happened, something awful, and the wound his son was nursing lay far deeper than the slice on his cheek.
Trunks did not speak.
"When I tell you to do something, you do it," Vegeta ordered. "You do not stand there and disrespect me with your silence."
"I'm not—!" he started, but thought better of it, and hunched into himself again.
"You're not what? Being disrespectful? That's exactly what standing there like a mute when I've asked you a question is. Who. Did this."
"I did," the boy mumbled into his chest, and Vegeta could detect no lie in him.
"What?" He took his son's chin in his fingers and angled his face for a better look. The mark did indeed bear the signs of having been inflicted slowly and deliberately, rather than a quick slash in the heat of battle. His son was no stranger to pain, but such a wound had to be quite painful, and to do something like that to himself…
Vegeta was no stranger to the concept of self-harm, though he had never practiced it himself; but nothing he had seen or experienced in Frieza's court had prepared him for this moment.
Trunks tried to look away, but Vegeta held his chin firm.
"You did this—deliberately?" he asked, as though he didn't already know the answer.
"Yes," Trunks muttered so low he could barely hear him.
"I… I thought a scar would make me look cooler."
"Don't lie to me."
"I'm not! I-I'm sick of looking like a girl! It worked for Yamcha—"
"Did he put you up to this?"
"Was it Goten?"
"No. No, no no no!"
Trunks tore out of his father's grip, his expression a grimace of pain.
"Then why?" Vegeta demanded gruffly, feeling bewildered and more afraid than he could remember being for a long time.
"I told you," his son said, voice defeated.
"Trunks, there are about a hundred different ways to change your appearance without resorting to violence. Believe me, your mother has introduced me to most of them. Why take a knife to yourself?"
"I can't tell you," his son informed him.
"Like hell you can't tell me. You marked your face so that anyone could see; what did you think, we would just ignore it?"
"I can't tell you," Trunks repeated desperately.
"Will you tell your mother?" Vegeta offered, knowing that he wouldn't. His son's silence confirmed his gamble. "Then you must tell me."
"You are a prince. Royal blood runs in your veins. You are one of the strongest beings on this planet. No one but myself and your mother can tell you what you can or cannot do."
"It's not like that. I-I… don't want you to kill anybody."
Trunks studied his father fearfully, his expression growing more and more nervous as the silence wore on. Vegeta, meanwhile, tried to gather his thoughts. That his son was afraid of him actually killing someone meant a few things: first and foremost that whatever had driven the boy to mark himself in such a manner was as bad as he had feared. Second— less urgent but no less important— was the fact that his son did not trust him, which hurt far more than Vegeta cared to think about.
"Would that not suggest that whoever did this is deserving of death?" he asked coldly. Trunks looked anguished.
"I told you, I did it myself."
"So you just woke up this morning and decided you'd look better with a scar, all on your own."
His son was near tears, and Vegeta looked away from him, unable to bear the sight.
"It's fine, okay?" Trunks said, though his voice wavered as he spoke. "It's nothing to worry about."
Vegeta turned back to his son, gripping his shoulder as tightly as he dared. Tears dripped down the boy's cheeks, and not letting go of him was the hardest thing Vegeta had ever done. His voice, when he spoke, was soft and patient.
"Tell me why you decided to mark yourself in such a manner."
"It's… it's stupid."
Vegeta merely waited.
"There's this… lady. One of the employees. She… she keeps saying how pretty I am whenever I run into her. Sometimes I think she's following me, but I mean, she does work here. And she gives me these… really… these… hugs, that are kind of weird."
Vegeta acknowledged the slow roil of his stomach for what it was. Trunks continued.
"She mentioned something the other day, about how when I get older all the girls are going to… to want to get into my pants because I'm so good looking, and I thought… well, screw that, you know?" He gave a nervous laugh and looked up at his father, who was studying the far wall of the chamber intently. He gave his son's shoulder a faint squeeze, and Trunks looked back down. "I thought maybe a scar would make it so they would leave me alone, so if someone wanted to be with me, I'd know it was because they liked me. Um… I guess that was pretty stupid…"
Vegeta's voice was toneless.
"The woman you mentioned. What is her name?"
"Your mother will want to fire her," Vegeta said to the fear in his son's voice. He felt detached from his surroundings, except for the feel of Trunks' shirt under his fingers and the body heat his son gave off that was slightly cooler than his own.
The woman stood up suddenly, banging her hand against the open oven.
"Who's there?" she called, seeing no one in her deserted kitchen.
"Miss Inazuma, you are going to kill yourself."
She shivered and groped blindly for the knife block on the counter.
"You could slit your wrists," the voice purred, and she spun around, for it had seemed to come from behind her. No one was there. "But it's really up to you."
"Who are you?" She looked around wildly, trying to find the source of the voice.
"It doesn't matter. In fact, it's best that you don't know. But you are going to kill yourself."
"Why would I do that?"
"Because if you don't," the voice rumbled, still soft but somehow more threatening, "I will dismember you slowly and eat your limbs in front of you."
The woman squeaked, and backed up into the counter, pressing herself flush against it and wishing she could disappear.
When Bulma mentioned over breakfast that the woman she'd fired had committed suicide, Vegeta was careful to let his son catch his eye, letting him search his face until he found what he was looking for. Vegeta was grateful, as his son relaxed and went back to his eggs, that Trunks did not yet know how to lie with his soul.