Lost and Found
Goku rubbed his eyes tiredly, only then becoming conscious of how exhausted he was, how long he had been awake. The hours had rushed by at a frantic pace, crazed and dizzying, but filled with joy and relief above all. Even now he felt a quiet contentment as he rested in his chair beside Goten's bed, unable to get quite comfortable, and yet unable to resent it. The boy had come out of it and returned to them, that was all that mattered now. There was still such a long way to go, of that there could be no question, but their first hurdle had been passed.
It remained to be seen exactly how much damage had been permanently done to Goten's mind and memory, but for now he had woken and known who he was, and that was enough.
It was dark in the hospital room now, or at least dark in comparison to the fluorescent illumination of a few hours past. Now there was only the dull, gentle glow of the lamp at the bedside, casting Goten's face in highlights and shadows as he slept.
Gohan had tried to convince Goku to go home and sleep; he had hardly left the hospital since the night Goten was shot, but now that his son was finally showing progress, he would have none of it. He simply wanted to stay, just for a while, and know that the boy was safe. After so many days of unbearable worry, he could remain a little longer, and rest in the knowledge that Goten was recovering.
Everyone else had long since retired to their homes, and he found the quiet soothing. He found himself thinking. His mind walked slowly through the events of the past several days, for the first time able to do so with a sense of calm and detachment, rather than with desperate worries and questions. His thoughts wandered and circled aimlessly, paddling along through a pool of memories, both blurred and sharp, until they came to a certain point and stayed, hovering.
The smile that touched his lips was one of wistful irony, and perhaps of sorrow as he shifted his gaze to study his son's face once more. All things, it seemed, came back to the prince.
Over the past few days, all his mental energy had been focused on Goten, with Vejiita pushed to the back of his mind by his fear for his son. And now, with some of that fear alleviated, with the first real peace he had felt in days, his prince returned, slipping through the cracks in his lowering defenses to materialize behind his eyes once again. Those eyes closed as he lowered his head slightly.
Vejiita. A dark and twisted tangle of complexities and depths, both subtle and great. Arrogant beyond reason, infuriatingly cold, seemingly untouchable. And then beneath that... Beneath that. Oh, hot, and still dark, but a roiling dark of passion and need and burning emotions. A creature of fire and not of ice, one that pressed against the surface of his frozen outer shell, chained and stunted, and yet, so very present. That creature... Goku turned his head to the side slightly, his face twisted into a grimace that was almost pain. That creature was everything he wanted, alive and passionate, uncorrupted, ferocious but yet... There had been a time when he would never have though it, but inside Vejiita, in counterpoint, there was indeed a strange gentleness.
Yes, that inner self that the prince had choked off and strangled was everything that Goku wanted. And he sighed, and another faint smile touched his lips even as his mind drifted toward sleep. Everything he had wanted, but those walls of ice that kept Vejiita imprisoned had defeated him. Goku had tried everything he knew to bring the prince out of his frozen isolation, and he had found that he could not. There was not the strength in him to do it.
Goku's head sank down on his chest, his breathing evening out.
No, he knew now that it was impossible. The strength to shatter those walls could only come from inside them; from without they had become impenetrable. In the end, it was Vejiita's own choice, and Vejiita's own strength, that could release him.
Goku did not feel the wetness of the tear that slipped down his cheek as he subsided into sleep. For he believed that it was futile; the prince had already given up.
Vejiita shrugged out of his jacket, letting it slide down his arms, then catching it at the last moment and tossing it onto his bed. The moonlight that shimmered through his windows cast the room in cool blues and grays and deep shadows, and he did not turn on the light, comfortable in the surrounding darkness.
He wondered at the emptiness he felt as he kicked off his shoes, then bent to pull his socks off. Emptiness was nothing new to him, really. But he had never been so keenly aware of it before. He felt dull and flat, as though the life was slowly being leeched out of him, leaving him more drained with every moment that passed.
Slowly, his fingers clumsy, he tugged his shirt over his head, letting it drop to the floor at his feet. Dressed in nothing but his black jeans, he stepped silently toward the glass door leading onto his balcony, feeling like his body belonged to someone else. He pulled the sliding door open, the outside tiles cool beneath his feet as he stepped across the threshold, into the dark, soothing caress of the wind. The night was cloudless, the stars brilliant in their ebony blanket above him, spreading their vastness beyond sight and imagination. His eyes traveled the starscape and traced that constellation that some humans called Orion. And there, the Gemini Twins. Taurus the bull and Ursula. The north star.
And out of that enormous sparkling sea, he found himself trying to outline in his mind his own Saiya-jin constellations. The Golden Ozaruu. Maitzu the Hunter. Zukanitsi the Great. His gaze jumped from star to star, struggling to bring back the images given to him in his youth. To find his legends.
His chest ached suddenly as the glittering mass remained featureless. He could not remember. It had been too long.
And it came to him then that he was weeping. Weeping for the lost things that could never be recovered. For the life and history of his people that had burned so brightly, then fallen into darkness. He was the last spark that existed, the last tiny glimmer of a heritage and tradition going back for millennia. And when he died, he would take that spark with him. And the time of the Saiya-jins would finally, fully and completely, be over. There would not even be any left to mourn their passing.
Surely there had rarely been one quite so alone as he was. Surrounded by the myriad life of this planet he now called home. And he was so utterly and completely alone.
His eyes closed on the pain.
It had been over forty years since he had last laid eyes on the place of his birth. And he found himself wishing, like all the clichés, for one more moment. One more look, one more touch, one more breath of the air from the mountains near the palace. Just once. And if only.
If only he had brought something with him, if only he could have. Pressed a leaf from one of the Zizamantla trees into the pages of a book. Brought one of the paintings he had appreciated so little as a child. A page from a manuscript. A flower from the garden. If only...And then Vejiita shut his mind to the thoughts. For, his lips twisted in a bitter smile, that way lay madness. There was no use in `if only'. There was only what was.
There was only now, this moment. This place.
Vejiitasai... was lost to him forever.
The grief welled up again, overpowering in its strength and depth, and he tried to find the disgust to push it back. Disgust at the pathetic weakness in him that made him feel such things. And he couldn't. He couldn't find it. There was no energy left in him to drag the proper feelings out of the darkness. He couldn't...
And so he wept. The tears shook his body with their force, wracking his frame. His chest felt as though it were caving in on itself, and he slumped against the railing, clinging to it weakly. Slowly, slowly, his legs collapsed beneath him, and he slid downward, still clinging to the rail for support. Falling until his knees touched the ground, and his head was pressed against the bars. And the pain in his heart found release in his voice as he finally sobbed aloud, crushing his body against the railing, wanting to press himself out of existence and away from his suffering. He screamed, suddenly, until his voice was hoarse, and then continued to weep, the tears not slowing, the trembling not abating. His hands jerked free of the railing to wrap around his body, and he rocked back and forth, hugging himself as if afraid his heart would simply tear free of his chest if he didn't. He sank to his side without meaning to, laying against the balcony floor, the cold stone absorbing the heat of his hopeless grief.
He sobbed for hours, or minutes, or an eternity. When it ended he lay still on the floor, the night sky swirling above him, sharing in the moment as it shared in all things, a distant witness.
The wind was a balm against his sweat-dampened skin, drying the tears that glistened wetly on his cheeks and smoothing gentle fingers through his hair. He felt strangely empty, but not... as he had before. Now empty of pain and rage and suffering. Only a hollow shell that was free to simply bask in the now of the wind and the night. As though all of his darkness had been temporarily purged with his tears, and the clean sweep of the night breeze was free to rush through his soul; fresh air to a dank place too long closed off.
He closed his eyes, becoming a being of only sound and touch. Listening to the voices of the night that sounded in a continuous chorus around him. The cicadas and the crickets, the whispering rustle of the trees as they swayed and danced with the wind. The silken caress of that wind. The cool roughness, little pores and cracks in the stone beneath him. Long, drawn out moments of gentle sensation.
He sighed. And he opened his eyes.
Slowly, he sat up, wiping the last dampness from the cheek that had not been bared to the wind. After a long moment he made it to his feet, drawing in a clean, shuddering breath.
The grief was still there, and the darkness. Waiting for their chance to return, prowling along the edges of his mind. Vejiita was not foolish enough to believe that he had conquered anything. This was only a temporary respite. But he had never imagined that allowing such a release of his emotions would bring to him this crystalline moment of tranquility.
He would enjoy it while it lasted.
The next day at the hospital was still blossoming with happiness and optimism, though the hysterical excitement had dropped to more reasonable levels. Friends and family popped in from time to time, just to check up, though Goten slept through most of it, and the nurses were very watchful after the previous night's craziness.
Goku was currently down in the hospital's cafeteria, relaxing for a bit and having a bite to eat. Though what constituted a “bite” for a Saiya-jin was quite different than what it might be for a human.
He took a long sip of his coffee, idly sloshing the dark liquid in his cup. It was mid afternoon and it seemed like everyone he knew had already stopped by. All of Goten's family, of course, and Piccolo, Tenshinhan, Yamcha, Master Roshi, Christina, Krillin, Juuhachigo, Marron...The fingers swirling his coffee suddenly stopped, and he hardly noticed as it slopped hotly over his hand. What about Vejiita?
His lips twisted into a frown, and he began backtracking in his mind, trying to remember exactly the last point at which he had seen the prince. The most clear memory of him was when Vejiita had called out to him to bring him to Goten's bedside as his son woke up. Then... there were several vague images of the prince being around in the background as everyone had shown up, but Goku realized that he didn't remember saying goodbye to him last night. And the prince hadn't made an appearance today.
His frown deepened for a moment before easing. Well, that was like Vejiita, to want to get away from the crush of people who had been showing up lately. Goku shouldn't expect him to show up until things calmed down. It might be a day or two yet.
The doctors were astonished. The speed and success of Goten's recovery left them flabbergasted, talking amongst themselves about the medical miracle. Just over a week since the boy had awakened from his coma, and he was nearly ready to be released from the hospital. He was still very weak and had trouble walking and remembering certain words, and pieces of his memory had yet to come back, but, all in all, it was far beyond what anyone could have expected.
And there had been no sign of Vejiita.
Goku knew he was all right, for there had been no disruption of their link. He could feel that Vejiita was well, though the prince's emotions were impenetrably cut off from him. And Trunks had come to visit on a regular basis. But his father never accompanied him.
And gradually, as the time slowly counted down to the day when Goten was to be sent home, Goku acknowledged that Vejiita would not be coming. Whatever had happened during the height of the tragedy, whatever fragile understanding they had shared could not last outside of it. Now that the crisis was over, Vejiita had withdrawn again, and Goku found that, finally, he was defeated. The joy of his son's recovery was made bittersweet. Though he did not know it, the prince of the Saiya-jins had finally achieved his victory over Goku. The younger Saiya-jin couldn't try anymore; his efforts weren't enough to allow the prince to break free of the cycle of anger and hatred that held him captive.
Even Son Goku had to give up some time.
He stirred slightly from where he stood looking out of the hospital window. Goten was asleep, and there had been a pause in their stream of visitors. They would leave the hospital tomorrow. Slowly, he turned his head to look at the resting boy, and a small smile touched his lips, then seemed to freeze before melting away again.
He returned his gaze to the window, feeling a sudden, painful constricting of his throat. A moment more and he was weeping. It came suddenly the emotion finally overpowering him, and he didn't try to fight it. His tears were soft and restrained, the quiet sobs barely audible as he continued to look out at the night through the saline smearing his vision. This grief was harder to bear than so much that had come before, because it meant letting go. It meant giving up on the fight. It meant letting Vejiita walk his path alone, a different road from Goku's.
The Saiya-jin splayed his hand against the wall beside the window, letting his head lean forward until his forehead touched the frame. He closed his eyes, drawing in a slow, agonized breath.
I love you Vejiita… And goodbye.
There was a party at Goku's house the weekend after Goten was released from the hospital.
The small, normally quiet house was alive with laughter and noise as all of the Son family's dearest friends and relations gathered to celebrate Goten's recovery. Gohan and Trunks had set up an elaborate speaker system and were playing all of Goten's favorite music. Mrs. Briefs and Videl had arranged all of the food. There was more than enough there to feed everyone, even with all the Saiya-jin blood present. Three enormous turkeys, dripping and sticky with golden marinade. Smoked ham and barbecued chicken wings, because Goten had a liking for American food. Even hamburgers and hotdogs. But there was also sushi and tofu and baked oysters, among other dishes. There were various exotic fruits and choices of vegetables, and a fine selection of beverages, including sake for the more daring.
Topping it off was a gigantic, two story chocolate cake, smothered in icing and bearing the words `Welcome Back Goten!' in bright, bold lettering.
Goku stood outside, watching his friends and family talk and laugh together, nodding and smiling at those he made eye contact with and engaging in brief, warm conversations with whoever happened by.
Trunks hardly left Goten's side, except to bring him food and change the CDs when necessary. He fluttered about, Marron trailing unobtrusively after him, young face lightly flushed with excitement and happiness at having his best friend back again, his blue eyes sparkling with happiness for whoever spoke to him.
Goku felt the smile on his lips fade slightly. How remarkably different from his father he was. How beautifully innocent and happy, how welcoming of others. Almost more like his own son than Vejiita's.
He shifted his gaze before he could dwell on that thought any longer.
His smile brightened again at the sight of his other child. Gohan was sprawled out on the grass, his head resting in Videl's lap, idly playing with her dark hair as he talked with the remarkably relaxed Namek seated beside him. Piccolo had his legs stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankles, his hands braced behind him. He had shed his heavy cloaks and was dressed almost casually, chewing on a long blade of grass as his sharp eyes surveyed his surroundings. Piccolo was another who had changed most markedly since Goku had first known him.
Goku nearly laughed out loud as Pan came running up out of nowhere and fell onto her father's stomach with a delighted giggle, causing him to `oomf!' loudly and earning herself a scolding from her mother and a look of patient tolerance from Piccolo.
Yamcha was sitting across the yard with Krillen and Juuhachigo, the three of them engaged in a quiet discussion that Goku couldn't hear from his place against the house. The battle-scarred human was gesturing animatedly, though, and from the disgruntled look on Krillen's face and the amused one on Juuhachigo's, he would guess they were having some kind of pointless debate.
Tenshinhan was meanwhile trying to extricate himself from Master Roshi's clutches, repeatedly attempting to end their conversation with little success. Chaozu stood at his heels, looking helpless to do anything to better the situation. Goku snorted under his breath, grinning.
His eyes swept over the gathering again, noting with a sudden pang the empty places. Some were friends and lovers long gone. Others, like Christina, were more recent. Apparently she hadn't felt ready to deal with what had happened to Goten. It was too much for her, and she had broken it off. While a large part of Goku resented her for it, another part of him understood, at least a little. She and Goten hadn't been very deeply involved, and it would be a lot to handle, even for someone with a deep commitment.
Of course, it was the other absence that hurt him most deeply.
Vejiita was not present.
He hadn't really expected him to be, but it was painful, nonetheless. When Trunks had arrived their eyes had locked, and it seemed the boy had somehow understood his silent question, for he had shrugged and shook his head, a helpless look in his eyes.
Goku sighed and closed his eyes. He would not think about it now. Today was for Goten.
It wasn't long before the call came to come and get cake. Everyone gathered around the long table, Trunks guiding Goten's wheelchair, and Goku shoved himself away from the wall, a small smile returning to his lips as he approached.
Mrs. Briefs was cutting the cake, humming happily to herself, then beaming at Goten.
“Which piece would you like, dearest?”
Goten leaned forward in his chair, peering at the cake intently, before grinning and pointing at a huge slab of glistening chocolate dessert. “That one.”
“Coming right up!” Mrs. Briefs sang, deftly scooping it up and slapping it onto a plate.
It was as the others were coming forward to receive their pieces that Goten paused from stuffing his face, looking around and blinking as though something had just occurred to him.
He licked icing from his fingers absently, his brows drawing together in a frown.
“Hey,” he said after a moment. “Where's Vejiita?”
There was a sudden, awkward silence, and Goku felt his stomach drop. More than anything he wanted to avoid any conversation about the prince.
“Erm…” Trunks began hesitantly, “He's, uh…”He trailed off, obviously trying to come up with a good enough reason for Vejiita not to have attended this celebration.
“He's…”The silence lengthened.
Finally Yamcha broke in. “Oh for God's sake, why can't we just say it! We all know why Vejiita's not here.”
“Yamcha…” Goku's voice carried a note of warning.
“No!” The man snapped, his cheeks flushing slightly. “I'm sick and tired of the way we all pretend like nothing's wrong with him!”
Several people were gaping at Yamcha, others turning away in embarrassment. A muscle in Trunks' jaw was twitching, and Piccolo was gazing at Yamcha disapprovingly.
“Look, Yamcha,” Goku broke in again, “Just let it go, all right?”
“Just-” Yamcha sputtered for a moment, his eyes darkening. “We've all been letting it go, for how long now?! Fifteen years? More! I am sick of all the bullshit! No one said anything after what happened with Bulma, no one's saying anything now, no one ever says anything!”
“Yamcha, I-” Goku tried, more forcefully this time.
But it was obvious that Yamcha had had this simmering for a long time, and was not going to be quieted once he had begun.
“Prince Vejiita,” he sneered, “is no good. He never has been. He's an absolute bastard to everyone around him, even his own son! He mocks and belittles all of us, and we just put up with it! Why?!”
“I think that's enough-”Yamcha cut Goku off once again.
“What the fuck gives him the right?! He treated Bulma like shit and you didn't do a damn thing about it, Goku! Now he's pissing on your son's party, after he nearly died, and you're still defending him! You're always defending him!”
The human's face was becoming more flushed, his eyes glittering as he punctuated his words with sharp hand gestures.
“You need to open your eyes, Goku! Vejiita doesn't belong here! He would have been doing us all a favor if he'd succeeded in knocking himself off months ago!”
There were gasps of shock. An animalistic snarl was heard from Trunks' direction and Piccolo twisted sharply, preparing to grab the boy before he did anything stupid. But it didn't matter, because Goku got there first.
Before anyone was even aware that he had moved, he had caught Yamcha by the throat and slammed him backwards, glasses shattering as he pinned the shocked human against the tabletop.
All the fighters present were frozen with indecision, torn between moving to stop the Saiya-jin and wanting to flee from the barely contained power emanating from him that sent the grass around him trembling.
Veins were standing out in Goku's arms, his muscles twitching slightly as he looked down at Yamcha, his face a mask of fury. He wasn't squeezing, but he still held the man by the neck, his fingers flinching ever so slightly as though he were struggling to resist the impulse.
Yamcha was absolutely still, clearly trying not to do anything to provoke Goku further, his eyes wide with terror as he stared up at him.
A long moment passed.
“Yamcha,” Goku said finally, and several people winced at the tightly controlled tone of his voice, “You are one of my oldest friends. You have been there with me through thick and thin, and I've always appreciated that. I don't want to lose your friendship.” He paused for several tense seconds. “But I am telling you now, and I will only say it once: You will never speak that way about Vejiita again. I know you don't like him, and I can understand that. You have a right to your opinion. But you will never, ever show any kind of display like this around me again.” Goku's jaw clenched briefly as his nostrils flared. “If you cannot keep your comments about Vejiita to yourself, you are no longer welcome in my home. Do you understand me?”
He visibly eased his hold on Yamcha's neck, but didn't quite release him.
“Y-Yes.” Yamcha was white to the lips, his eyes almost completely pupil, tiny shivers beginning to wrack his frame. “I- I'm sorry, I'm…”Goku sighed, pulling his hand away from Yamcha's neck, his face slowly returning to normal, much to the relief of everyone watching. Almost gently, he reached out to take Yamcha's arms and return him to his feet.
“I'm sorry too,” he said quietly. “Are you hurt?”
Yamcha was visibly trembling now, but managed to shake his head. “N… No, I-I don't think any of the glass go… got me…”Goku winced slightly, a contrite look touching his features.
“I'm sorry Yamcha,” he said again, carefully brushing stray shards of glass from the back of the man's shirt. “I didn't mean to frighten you like that, I just… I… You and I are going to have to have a talk soon, okay?”
Yamcha nodded jerkily, color slowly returning to his cheeks. “Y-Yeah… Okay…”Goku patted his back softly, giving it a brief rub before dropping his hand. He finally looked at the gaping crowd and flushed slightly, coughing and ducking his head for a moment. Then he looked up and smiled.
“I'm sorry about that everyone. Why don't we see if we can turn this into a real party again?”
Trunks stepped through the door into his home, kicking his shoes off and arching his back in a slow stretch. After a period of awkwardness following Goku and Yamcha's confrontation, the party had gone remarkably well. He still hadn't been able to look at Yamcha without wanting to do him some kind of physical harm, and so he had avoided the other man for the rest of the night, spending his time with Goten, Gohan, and Pan.
He walked slowly into the lounge to find his father curled in a large armchair, and he was suddenly struck by how small the Saiya-jin prince actually was. He had drawn himself up with his back against the chair's arm, one bare foot hanging over the other side as he absorbed himself in a thick book, tail swaying gently. The stuffed leather chair dwarfed him. Granted, it was a big chair, but his father looked strangely… fragile, lost in it. What a contradiction in terms. His father and “fragile” in the same sentence. But many things had changed in Trunks' perception of the Saiya-jin prince.
After several moments Vejiita looked up at him, black eyes unsurprised to find him there. Snapping the book shut, he laid it on the coffee table and swung around so that he was sitting in the chair more naturally. His movement dispelled the odd sense of smallness that hung about him, and he was once more Trunks' indominatable father. Despite the fact that Trunks was an inch or two taller than him, Vejiita always seemed to be the taller one. At least, in normal circumstances.
Bracing his elbows on the arms of the chair, Vejiita sank back into it, his eyes half-lidded as he looked at Trunks. He was dressed in a pair of faded jeans that had seen better days; ripped at the knees and fraying at the cuffs. A simple black undershirt completed the outfit, loosely hugging his frame.
Strolling over to the table, Trunks casually picked up the book his father had been reading, glancing at it curiously. His eyebrows shot upward.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare?” he read in disbelief. His father glared at him. “Yes, that is what it says,” he snapped.
“Pointless drivel for the most part, but the play I'm currently reading has some merit.”
Intrigued, Trunks flipped to the page Vejiita had marked with the pale gold ribbon attached to the book's spine.
“Ah,” he murmured with a faint smile. “Hamlet.”
Trunks gently closed the book and set it down again, shaking his head. “I can't believe you're actually reading Shakespeare.”
“What, did you imagine that I was the equivalent of some illiterate, half-educated high school drop out who can barely string two coherent sentences together, much less read the so-called classics?”
“Of course not,” Trunks said in exasperation, deciding to switch the subject. His father seemed a bit testy tonight.
He sat down on the edge of the chair, upsetting Vejiita's arm and earning himself a glare from the prince.
“Everyone wondered where you were at the party,” he said quietly.
Vejiita glanced at him, arching a cynical eyebrow.
“I mean it. Goten asked about you.”
The prince made a noncommittal noise, looking at his hands briefly.
“Then Yamcha… started talking.” Trunks' face darkened at the memory.
“What he said wasn't terribly flattering.”
“What a surprise,” Vejiita snorted disgustedly.
“No, I mean… He was really awful, Dad. I never knew he felt so much anger toward you…”
Again, the prince said nothing, gazing across the room, his expression unreadable.
“But, I was ready to kick his ass. I mean, really, I couldn't just sit there and let him talk about you like that!” The ghost of a smile touched Vejiita's lips. “But I never got the chance.” He glanced at his father out of the corner of his eye. “Because Goku got there first.”
A sudden stillness fell about Vejiita. He hardly seemed to be breathing for an endless moment. Finally, “Kakarrot…?”
“Yeah,” Trunks said softly, watching his father carefully now. “I didn't even see him move, but all of a sudden he had Yamcha by the throat and pinned against the table. You should have seen him, Dad. I don't think I've seen him so angry in a really, really long time. For a second I actually thought he was going to seriously hurt him.”
Vejiita was still staring across the room, but the fingers resting against the chair's far arm twitched slightly, and he drew a slow, careful breath. When he spoke, his voice was very soft.
Trunks shrugged nonchalantly, though he felt anything but. “Well. Goku was talking to him for a while, and he was just so angry, but he said that if he ever talked about you like that again, Yamcha was no longer welcome in his home.”
His father still didn't move. His voice came faintly.
“He said that?”
“Almost exactly,” Trunks confirmed.
Vejiita stood abruptly, his arms folding across his chest and his head bowing as he began walking around the room restlessly.
His pacing continued for some time, as though he had to move around, had to release some kind of pent-up energy trapped inside him.
“I wonder- Why would-” He began speaking several times, almost mumbling to himself, but never quite completing his phrase. “I just can't… …no sense at all…”
Trunks remained silent as long as he could, biting his lips to keep from speaking. Then, finally, he couldn't restrain himself any longer.
“Dad?” he said softly, his voice very quiet, almost gentle. “Why are you avoiding Goku?”
Vejiita's head snapped up, a startled look reflected in his black eyes.
“What makes you think I'm avoiding Kakarrot in particular?” he said sharply after a prolonged silence.
Trunks ignored his question. “Are you mad at him?”
Vejiita glared at him. “When am I not mad at the fool?”
Trunks sighed, a strange calmness coming over him. He felt it was time to tell his father the truth. “Dad… Dad, stop. Stop pretending. I know what's between you two.”
Vejiita's movements halted as though he had smashed into an invisible wall. He was frozen in utter, absolute immobility, his back to Trunks, every muscle in his body visibly tense. Trunks wondered stupidly if his father was going to attack him.
The silence was stretching unbearably, but now Trunks was afraid to be the first one to speak.
Finally the prince uttered one taut, strained word.
Trunks could feel his heart beat increasing nervously. He wasn't really afraid of his father, but it was a nerve-wracking situation nonetheless.
“I… I- Could you… maybe sit down?” His voice carried a note of pleading.
Vejiita turned quickly to look at him, his face a blank mask.
After another moment of painful tension, Vejiita slowly sank onto the couch that was against the wall to the right of Trunks' chair.
“You…” the prince said slowly, his voice strangely harsh, “What do you know?”
Trunks bit his lips, looking down for a moment. “I… I know that you and Goku… are involved…”
Vejiita's eyes were glittering strangely in the blankness of his face. “Involved.”
Trunks could feel himself blushing. Of all the things he didn't want to discuss with his father, his love life was probably tops. What child liked thinking of their parents like that? He forced himself not to squirm awkwardly.
“Uh… yeah. You know… That you're… together.”
Still, no emotion was betrayed on Vejiita's face. “I see. And what… could possibly have made you believe that?”
Now there was a dangerous edge to his father's voice.
Trunks looked at his hands. “Gohan and I both know. We're the only ones!” he hastened to add as Vejiita made an odd noise. “At least I think so. And Goku didn't tell us, if that's what you're wondering. We sort of… found out on our own. I don't even think Goku knows we know.”
Vejiita was staring straight ahead again, barely blinking.
“How long…?” he asked a moment later, his voice completely flat.
Trunks was rather surprised that Vejiita wasn't making more of an attempt to deny the relationship between him and Goku.
“Uh, it was… a few weeks ago now. A little while before everything with Goten.”
Vejiita made a vague sound that might have indicated surprise. Or merely acknowledgement. His father was so hard to read.
The silence began growing between them again.
“Dad…? Dad, we… we don't mind, if that's what's worrying you. Gohan and I. I mean, it's… it's a little weird to think about-” Now that was an understatement. “-but we honestly don't mind. We think… maybe… it could be good…”
God, could this possibly be any more awkward? Trunks felt like his face was on fire.
“It's over between us,” Vejiita said abruptly, cutting off Trunks' stammerings.
Trunks felt his mouth fall open. “It's- What? I- But- Why?”
Vejiita said nothing.
Feeling like his body was moving of its own violation, Trunks got up and moved so that he was sitting beside his father on the couch, staring at him. “You are angry with him. Why?”
“I'm not angry with him.”
Now Trunks could read the expression on the prince's face. He was clearly surprised that he had spoken. Apparently, he had revealed that without meaning to.
“Then why are you-” He paused abruptly, the reason hitting him like a slap in the face. He was almost afraid to say it, knowing that his father couldn't possibly react well. But again, his body seemed to be acting independently of his brain. “You're afraid.”
The prince froze again, and Trunks could practically see his hackles rising. He looked at Trunks angrily.
“There are things that you can't possibly understand about this, boy! And it's really none of your business anyway. What-”
“This is more important than your pride, Dad!” Trunks cried, the words out of his mouth almost before he'd finished thinking them. “Why do you do this?! Why do you cut off everyone who cares about you?!”
“Do you love him?”
They both froze. The question hung in the air between them, thick and heavy. For a moment Trunks was terrified, then just as suddenly relaxed. That was it. That was the really important issue here. It occurred to him, then, that he wanted more than anything for his father to be happy. That he wanted to see Vejiita without the constant darkness behind his eyes.
He spoke again, very quietly.
“Do you love him, Dad? Because… Because I think he loves you. I…” He was almost whispering now, feeling the truth behind his words. “I really think he does.”
Vejiita did not look at him, his chest rising and falling softly as he kept his face turned away from Trunks. Trunks found himself putting his arm across his father's back, leaning down to rest his cheek on the prince's shoulder.
“Don't push away everything that's good for you, Dad. Please. Please be happy… Believe in yourself… enough…”
There was silence between them once more, but not so awkward this time. Vejiita's head had dropped so that his face was in his hands. Trunks sat up after a moment, his hand still on his father's back. He let the quiet lengthen for a while longer, then spoke again, very softly.
“Do you love him?”
“Do you love him?”
A heavy, almost tangible pause. And then Vejiita's voice, broken, and strained almost beyond recognition.