I really, really, really hate this piece, but the evil half of my plot bunny threatened to stab me if I didn't post it. Le sigh.
Where He Was Shot
He found it in his father's closet.
No, he was probably not supposed to be in his parents' closet, or even in their room. But because his mother on a week-long business trip and his dad was training, he had little to do to settle his boredom besides playing video games, but for some reason the Xbox didn't seem so interesting this evening. And of course, the 9 year old was still as mischievous as he'd always been. Despite what his mother wanted to think, the Buu fiasco hadn't made him that much more mature.
Certain that he really wasn't going to find anything interesting, he simply started snooping about his parent's room. He found their clothes, sometimes in places that they didn't actually belong (although almost all of these cases were his mother's clothing, because she never put things where they belonged), his mother's jewelry, perfumes, and combs all in her vanity, and her half of the walk-in closet was piled high with shoes.
It was actually a lot more than half the closet; Vegeta didn't own much, as he felt no need to. His portion of the closet was merely two formal suits, which Bulma most likely made him keep for special occasions, some city clothes, and a few pairs of shoes that he hardly ever wore. The rest of his sweatpants and training clothes were normally kept in his dresser.
But there in the corner there was something that Trunks did not expect to see…armor.
His father hadn't worn a breastplate in a long time, though it was beyond Trunks as to why. He'd seen his father wear one, only once, and it was possibly the coolest looking thing the child had ever seen. But the surly prince had never put it on again after that, and Trunks had never thought to ask him about it.
And now, here it was…or at least, a different form of it. It was beaten and scuffed with deep scratches, the paint burnt and dirtied. Pieces of the white shoulder strap were broken (Trunks was sure it had been gold before), chunks of the hemline were missing, and there were cracked all over it. But perhaps the most severe marks on the breastplate were the small hole where a person's heart would go, and a large on that went clean through the back.
In morbid fascination, Trunks picked it up. It was light, and the material was stiff but stretchy, hard but smooth. His fingers flitted over the tiny hole in the left side, which had a matching twin on the back, and he gasped.
It was like touching his father's death.
Horrified, Trunks nearly dropped the armor, a thick lump rising in his throat. Tears brimmed in his eyes, blurring his vision.
"What are you doing?"
Trunks jumped. Whirling, he found himself staring into dark eyes, and he gulped nervously, his tears drying. "I…"
Vegeta raised a thick black eyebrow, and he glared at the armor in his son's hands. "Where did you get that?"
"…The closet," Trunks squeaked.
"Why were you in there?"
"I was bored…I didn't mean to –"
"Hush," the flame haired man scolded, and he took the armor from the 9 year-old. "This is trash," he sneered.
Trunks looked at the armor, and he asked quietly, "What happened to you?"
"I gathered that," Trunks murmured.
Vegeta's eyes narrowed, and he answered, "Frieza killed me."
He knew he would have to explain this someday. It was only natural that the boy was curious. What was he supposed to do? Lie? "Frieza was a tyrant…an Ice-jinn. He killed my people and kept me as a slave for many years."
Blue eyes widened. "A…a slave? Papa…"
"It's a long story, brat," Vegeta said, moving to put the armor back where it had been.
Trunks caught his arm, and the broken shoulder of the armor. "Tell me," he demanded.
Vegeta frowned deeply and pulled away, determined to but the armor back in the closest.
Trunks jumped in front of him and pushed against the breastplate. "Papa! You can't just tell me something like that and not elaborate! Not when I've found this beat up old armor and, and…Kami, Papa, who did this to you?" He pointed angrily at the missing piece where the heart should be.
Vegeta snatched it away and moved out of Trunks's path, and put the armor back where it belonged.
"No," Vegeta said firmly. "That's not something you need to know about."
"Twice, and I'm still here. No sense in living in the past."
"I deserve to know!" Trunks yelled. "Don't you dare tell me I don't! I saved the world too, you know! The least you could do is tell me about your past! I don't know anything about my heritage! When are you going to tell me?!"
"Never!" Vegeta snarled. "Never. It's not important and you don't need to know! Respect your elders!"
"Who cares if I need to? I want to know! What's so terrible other than the fact that you were dead?" Trunks was clearly getting upset, and if he had a tail, it would be stick straight and bristled. "Why won't you just tell me wh –"
"Because you'll hate me!" Vegeta yelled.
Trunks gaped. "I…what?"
"You'll hate me."
"I wouldn't - !"
"You don't know, Trunks!" Vegeta hissed. "You have no idea what I've done. You wouldn't like the story. I don't want you to hate me the way I hated my father."
"I can handle it," Trunks insisted. "I'd never hate you, Papa."
Papa. There it was again, that term of endearment that he didn't deserve. The term that was more loving and adoring than 'Dad' or 'Father'. He didn't want his son to think of him the way he thought of himself. Bulma had learned to forgive and live with him, but to show the child the good side before the bad…that was asking for punishment.
But he knew that look in the boy's eyes. It'd been present on his face too, many times, and it always came with trouble. It meant he was going to find out one way or another, no matter the costs.
He lifted his eyes to the ceiling, sending a quiet prayer to the Kais; they owed him a small favor, if anything.
He just prayed he wasn't making a grave mistake.
Bulma's return home from the business convention in Satan City was not an entirely pleasant one; the living room was in absolute shambles, as though a tornado had gone through it. She was almost certain that one of the males in her house had caused the mess, and she would not be wrong.
After shrieking wordlessly (as well as in a wordier manner, with colorful curses) she stormed up to her room and cast open the door, throwing her purse down on the bed and kicking off her high-heels. She moved to put them in the closet and noticed something immediately – Vegeta's armor had been moved.
He never touched it, never even looked at it, and she didn't understand why he'd want to keep it in the first place. It was a keepsake, he had murmured once, an ugly reminder of how weak he had been, and how he would never let such a thing happen to him again. It was a punishing memory that Bulma had often insisted was unnecessary, but he refused to change his mind on the matter. But anyway, it was never touched or moved, so when she found it in the corner loosely instead of pressed against the wall like it normally was, she immediately deducted that it had something to do with the cause of the living room's destruction.
After calling Chichi and asking of the whereabouts of her son, she found out that he had been sleeping over for nearly three days. He had shown up at the Son residence with an urge to fight Goten so strong that he had refused even food, and he told Chichi repeatedly that he had permission to be there as long as he liked. The dark-haired woman had no problem with this and had assumed everything was fine when no one called to wonder where Trunks was.
Bulma began to have to push the dread in her stomach down periodically. She had also talked to Goku, who had told her that Vegeta's Ki signature was indeed near the compound, if not inside it, but she had yet to find him. The gravity chamber was empty, and he was clearly not in the living room, kitchen, or their bedroom. She resorted to trying every single door in the compound before it struck her of the last possible place he could be.
Her instincts were correct, and she found her husband in his old bedroom, the one that he'd used before he'd moved into the one she'd made to be theirs. He had not used this bedroom in ages; he hardly ever went in there anymore, and that's what shocked her so much. It was used like a guest room, if anything else.
But there he was, lying still on the bed with his back to her.
"Vegeta?" she asked, stepping into the room and shutting the door. "Are you alright? Why are you in here?"
The muscles in his shoulders tensed, but he was silent. Bulma sat down on the bed and touched his arm. His skin felt damp. "Vegeta?"
He lifted his head just barely, his dark eyes dulled and deadened. His face was flushed, his breathing irregular, and a little sweat gleamed against his brow. "I told you," he rasped, reminding her of the thing he had secretly feared and warned her of since the boy's birth. "I told you he'd hate me."
She understood immediately, and she pressed her fingers to her mouth. "Oh, Vegeta," she whispered, and she started to cry.
He was in big trouble, and he knew it. The second his mother knocked on the Son's door, instead of calling for him to come home, he knew he was in big trouble.
"Thanks for watching him, Chichi," Bulma smiled faintly. "I owe you big time."
"Not a problem," Chichi replied, "But next time, could you call me first?"
"Definitely. It was a very last minute thing, so it won't happen again."
"Alright then. Is everything okay? You look a little stressed."
"Just tired," Bulma waved the raven haired woman off, and climbed into the capsule plane with Trunks. The ride home was very quiet for a long time, until Trunks squeaked, "Mom?"
"Your father is sick," she informed him.
Trunks blinked, his surprise overcoming the refusal to speak of that man. "What?...He's Saiyan, he doesn't get sick."
"Well, he's sick. Mind telling me why?"
Trunks frowned. "How should I know?" His voice darkened slightly. "He was perfectly fine when I left."
"And why did you leave?"
Trunks was quiet.
"It's my understanding," Bulma went on, not expecting him to answer in the first place, "that you found some of your father's old armor in the closet. Why you were in our room snooping is beyond me, but anyhow, I understand that you two had a little talk."
Trunks pressed his lips together and exhaled.
"I knew this would come one day, but I'd hoped I would be home to help out a little bit, so this could be prevented."
Trunks was trying very hard to will himself not to care, but eventually, he finally asked, "Why is Dad sick?"
Bulma frowned deeply and looked at him in the rear-view mirror. "Trunks, let me tell you something about Saiyans. It's not easy to get your father to talk about his people, but eventually several shots of sake will get me somewhere. Saiyans form packs, which are close-knit communities like families. Now, it's not entirely common, but every so often one of the family members will be shunned from the pack by doing something inexcusably wrong. It's not good for the shunned Saiyan physically or mentally. Something about being ostracized releases pathogens into their bodies, thus causing them to shut down and cease to function. I believe that's because they found that dying would be better than being alone and insane. That's why Vegeta is sick."
"Vegeta is not invincible, Trunks, I don't care what he says. He never wanted to have this conversation with you…and now you know why. When we get home, I want you to go to your room and think about what you did. Understand?"
The rest of the ride home was silent. Trunks pulled his knees to his chest in the backseat, and he felt a horrible pain in his stomach.
He had idolized the man for years. Years. His father had rarely been anything but perfect to him, other than a child's usual irritations with a parent. He'd been the strongest, the best, forever and always. He'd been invincible, unstoppable, the epitome of awesomeness. That's what he had been to Trunks.
And now to find out that he was a murderer? A killer? How could his father, a prince, have ever taken pleasure in that? How many planets had he destroyed? How many lives had he ruined? He thought about that, and how he had spent his whole life striving to be like him, and he felt sick.
And yet…to hear what his mother had said, what she had only learned from the rare occasions of Vegeta engaging in alcoholic activities…it hurt him worse than the knowledge of his father's past had.
He was still his papa, and he'd hurt him. Trunks couldn't believe it, but he really had hurt him. But some dark part of him believed he deserved it.
Vegeta had locked himself up in his old bedroom, only coming out to eat or shower when no one was present. Bulma noticed that he was beginning to thin a bit, and no matter what she did, she couldn't get him to go back to their room.
Trunks wasn't much better. He spent the majority of his time over at Goten's or locked in his own room, and although he joined them for family meals, he was always disturbingly quiet. Bulma had put careful thought into talking to him about the incident multiple times before she decided that it was something they had to work out themselves.
It seemed as though it was going to take a very long time.
Guilt gnawed at his insides like never before. Even when he had accidentally broken one of his mother's best inventions (wrestling with Goten in the house had become a huge no-no), he had not felt this terrible. It was started to get to him, but why? He hadn't done anything wrong, had he? Wasn't it natural to react the way he had if you found out that your father was…well.
He sighed and tiptoed down the hallway. His mother wasn't anywhere in this part of the building, thank God; she'd been giving him an odd type of silent treatment. It wasn't that she wasn't talking to him at all, but all her responses were short and clipped, though her tone was soft and sympathetic. Trunks really couldn't tell who's side she was on.
Being a curious child, Trunks had of course explored every inch of Capsule Corporation multiple times, although certain rooms he found no interest in. The guest rooms were usual one on those, but there had been one that had a familiar scent all over it…his father's scent. He deducted that, of course, though the scent was old and stale, it had been his father's old room, but finding nothing interesting in it, he hadn't really gone inside again.
But he was going in there now.
With his power level practically down to zero, he crept along the hall and stopped at the door where he could feel his father's wavering Ki. He bit his lip harshly, took a deep breath and let it out slowly. His fingers hovered over the doorknob, but he didn't turn it. He was nervous. He hadn't spoken to Vegeta in nearly two weeks.
"I know you're there, brat," Vegeta called, but his voice sounded raspy.
Trunks opened the door and walked in. "Dad?" he asked hesitantly.
His father looked terrible. Vegeta lay on his back, his skin pale and ashen, his cheeks slightly hollowed, his eyes tired and listless. He looked thin, as if he hadn't been eating properly, and his face was flushed with fever. "What?"
Speechless, Trunks's mouth worked, but no sound came out. He flinched under the man's gaze, and after a moment, then went to sit on the edge of the bed. After a while, he said, "Dad?...I'm sorry. I was wrong to judge you."
Vegeta was quiet, then replied, "No, you had every right. I didn't want to tell you for that reason."
Trunks bit his lip again. "Did you really hate your father?"
Vegeta sighed, his eyes turned towards the ceiling. "I did. For a long time. That's one reason I resolved never to have children when I was young."
"You didn't want me," Trunks said softly.
The Saiyan's eyes sparked. "I was a foolish man."
"Youth was unkind to me. I didn't learn for a long time. I'm proud to know you learn more quickly than I."
Trunks looked up, sighed, and pulled on his purple bangs. After a moment, he lay down beside his father and leaned his head against the prince's chest. He listened to his heartbeat for a moment, relieved that it was steady and strong instead of weak and faltering like he'd feared.. "I'd never hate you, Papa."
A small smile appeared on Vegeta's face, and a bit of color began to return to his cheeks.
A few days later, Vegeta began to eat properly again. Actually, he consumed twice as much as usual as his body began to rebuild itself. He started training again, for long hours, though he often insisted he took Trunks with him. The boy wasn't particularly pleased about being dragged into the gravity room more often than usual, but he did take great pleasure in beating Goten more regularly.
Occasionally, he would ask Vegeta about his past, and sometimes, he would reluctantly answer. Still, he never got sick after that again.