Solaris: Series 1 by Goku Girl
Summary: Sometimes it takes profound change to open the doorway to happiness. (This will eventually be rewritten and expanded.)
Categories: Anime > Dragon Ball Division Characters: Son Gohan, Son Goku, Son Goten, Trunks Briefs, Vegeta
Genres: Alternate Universe, Drama, Fantasy, Humor
Warnings: Coarse Language
Challenges: None
Series: Solaris
Chapters: 10 Completed: Yes Word count: 32473 Read: 12395 Published: 06-01-06 Updated: 06-03-06

1. Chapter 1 by Goku Girl

2. Chapter 2 by Goku Girl

3. Chapter 3 by Goku Girl

4. Chapter 4 by Goku Girl

5. Chapter 5 by Goku Girl

6. Chapter 6 by Goku Girl

7. Chapter 7 by Goku Girl

8. Chapter 8 by Goku Girl

9. Chapter 9 by Goku Girl

10. Chapter 10 by Goku Girl

Chapter 1 by Goku Girl
Author's Notes:

While Goku, Vegeta, and their sons are still Saiya-jin, they don't have majority of the abilities they had in Dragon Ball Z (which includes flight and supernatural strength/speed). In this story, Gohan is fifteen, Goten is ten, and Trunks is eleven. This story was inspired by Maldoror's Gundam Wing fanfic Freeport which can be found on http://www.gwaddiction.com. Also, most of this techie stuff is being made up so excuse me if it sounds stupid.

Warning: Japanese terms/phrases. I don't use many of them (like in, say, Metamorphosis) but there are enough to warrant a warning.

(when I should be working on Metamorphosis I instead come up with something brand new)

Author's Note (October 09, 2007): I'm planning on tweaking this story a little. Series 2 will be merged with series 1 since they're closely related anyway. Fortunately for you, series 1 is finished and series 2 was about halfway finished. I don't have a very good track record when it comes to completing series (series completed to date: zero).

When Vegeta walked into the bar he was hit by a stench so awful it nearly made the tiny hairs in his nose shrivel up and drop off. It did, however, make his eyes water. He stopped dead in his tracks, one hand clasped to his face, and seriously contemplated backing out of the establishment, contact or no. If the client that the man represented hadn't been one of his best, he would have readily written him off as a loss.

His dark brown, almost black, eyes scanned the dim interior of the bar, trying to catch the distinctive hairstyle the contact usually favored. It was usually a brilliant, almost radioactive green that surely glowed in the dark, gelled up into rigid spikes that could looked as if they could impale a person if he ever decided to charge them. Unfortunately, he couldn't see Mr. Spiky Head anywhere and it wasn't because there were several large furians that closely resembled fridges moving to surround him in a loose semi-circle.

"I don't have time for this," he complained aloud. The leader of the group, a furian wearing a leather jacket with metal spikes on the shoulders and cuffs, made a show of cracking the knuckles on his huge hands. Vegeta wondered if he would have time to take those few steps out of the bar and then that half mile to the dock without being forced to stand and fight. He seriously doubted it.

Not that he was trying to run away because he was afraid. He just didn't have the time for a brawl, not when he had already squeezed Obsidian's contact in a tiny time slot between a delivery and his departure for Gnoll. The more he thought about being stood up, the angrier he became until he started to look forward to the fight as a way of releasing stress. A wide grin spread across his face and he lowered himself into a fighting stance, startling the thugs standing above him.

"If we're going to do this, we need to do it now. My departure window is coming up."

With a roar, the leader rushed him and he moved like water around legs that were nearly longer than he was tall, and landed a punch to the base of his spine. With a grunt, the leader fell, temporarily paralyzed from the waist down.

Watching their exalted leader fall like a tree stole most of the courage from the other three. When they engaged Vegeta in combat, it was in a half-assed way that pissed the Saiya-jin off even more. In his opinion, if you were going to fight, it was a waste of time not to give it your all.

By the time Vegeta re-entered into the perpetual gloom of MO-12, his anger had been worked out, but his blood was still surging through his veins. He half wished that someone else would pick a fight with him, not that there was any more spare time to utilize. Once he got back to his ship, he was going to send a message to Obsidian and thoroughly criticize his contact with words that would still hold their potency even after being downloaded down onto the other man's computer and decrypted. No one invoked the ire of Vegeta and got away with it.

As it was, he had only five minutes to do the pre-flight before it was his turn to depart. If he had missed the window, he would have had to reschedule with the control "tower" and they would have bitched at him. It also would have thrown his entire schedule off as those crates of sweetgrass had to be in Gnoll in three days or else he would suffer a penalty. He understood the importance of forcing captains to schedule arrival and departure windows (especially since he had no desire to encounter some careless idiot and get killed out in the weightless -- and airless -- expanse of space), but in the event of an emergency, that law could really throw everything off.

He waited until he was outside MO-12 space and had engaged the auto-pilot before launching into his e-mail tirade. Vegeta spent twenty glorious minutes criticizing every single fault he could find in the contact (whose name he had never bothered to learn) then ran it through the encryption program before sending it off via his satellite link. Then he sat back in the captain's chair and closed his eyes with the intention of catching a little rest before he had to pilot again.

***
"We've got those parts you wanted, Goku. Just came in." Raquelle was already reaching beneath the counter before he could even open his mouth. She set a box big enough to hold a large dog on the counter with an ease that was owed entirely to the weights she'd lifted to get such an impressive set of biceps.

Goku looked at the box and raised his eyebrows. "A toddler could fit in that thing, Elle. I bet Goten could fit in it with no problem. Are you sure they didn't send someone else's stuff in the same box as mine?"

"Sure I'm sure. Don't you think I examined the contents?" She gave it a little push towards him. "You want me to add it to your tab?"

Son Goku seemed to have a running tab everywhere he shopped, but there was no help for it. He was the only one in the household that worked as his wife had various reasons for not lending a hand. She even went as far as to suggest that their eldest, Gohan, get a job, but Goku wanted him to concentrate on his studies. With his mind he was destined for great things and he would do all he could to help him achieve them.

"Yeah," he sighed. "Money's a little tight this month. Again."

"Hey, I understand." She pulled out a small book and made the appropriate notation. "You coming down to Nipsy's tonight? I heard that Flash and his crew are back in the neighborhood."

"I don't know. It depends on Chi Chi."

Just as Raquelle opened her mouth to issue her usual diatribe about his wife, his youngest, Goten, came speeding into the mech shop from outside. "Tousan[1], they're comin' again."

"Goddamn!" Raquelle cursed, vaulting over the counter. In a very stiff and angry way, she clenched her fists and headed to the door. "Goku, stay here and watch the shop."

"No," he said firmly. "I'm not letting you get hurt."

The six foot, three inch tall woman stared him in the eyes. She cut a very impressive figure in the tight gray tank top that showed off both the muscles in her arms as well as the black tribal tattoos covering them like spider webs. There was a silver bar through her left eyebrow, a ring through her lip, and her right ear held five piercings (which was nothing when you compared it to her left). Raquelle looked him over for a moment then shook her head. "You've got a family. I don't have anyone. Besides, I can bench press more than you." She grinned when she said this, infinitely pleased with herself.

"That may be true, but I'm better at actual fighting. Keep a close eye on Goten-chan or else he'll follow me out." This was said with a stern look at his suddenly sheepish son.

"Come on little guy," Raquelle said with resignation, one strong hand on Goten's shoulder. "We'll let your father work and watch from the window."

"Aw, Elly," he whined. Fortunately his father was already out the door.

When Goku stepped onto 12th Street, it was already deserted. The Serpents (a furian gang who loved to scare business owners into giving them "protection" money and harass innocent citizens who happened to run into them on the street) was notorious throughout the Aros sector. Few had the courage to stand up to them. Even Goku (who wasn't afraid) loathed to deal with them. Like most furians, reasoning didn't work well on them and they were larger and stronger than most of the other races. Even their children ran around like miniature thugs, terrorizing the sectors. But whenever people complained to the Solaran government, nothing was ever done to fix the problem. It made many think that someone with a lot of power was doing their best to ensure that they were never rid of their furian problem.

A trio of Serpents in their matching "uniforms" of green bandanas tied around their heads spotted Goku and started to make their way over to him. The Saiya-jin stopped halfway between the mech shop and a small restaurant and waited.

"If it isn't the wittle monkey," one sneered as he stopped in front of Goku. "Do you always have to try and stop us from doing our job?"

"When you bother people I care about, I'm always going to stop you."

"Until next time, that is. You can't be down here all the time."

While it was true that he had a family to care for and a job to do, he did spend a hell of a lot of time down on 12th Street. All of the business owners knew him by sight, if not by name, and he was friendly with a lot of the regular visitors. So he had a vested interest, you might say, in their happiness.

Without further ado, Goku dropped into a fighting stance and waited for their attack. It came exactly how he knew it would. No skill whatsoever, just brute strength. Rolling his eyes, Goku neatly side-stepped the punch of a large royal blue furian with with a thick white horn in the center of his forehead and grabbed his outstretched arm as he was going past. He then proceeded to flip the furian over his shoulder and onto the concrete of the street with a thud. Seeing that he was down for the count, Goku turned his attention to the other two. They were staring at him with wide eyes and didn't look at all inclined to engage him in combat. Goku jumped at them mockingly and they turned tail and ran.

"Don't come back or I'll kick your asses like I kicked his!" he shouted. When they were out of sight, he looked down at the blue furian and wondered what he was supposed to do with him.

"I called the cops," Raquelle told him. "We'll tie him up and wait 'till they get here. You were great as always."

Goten nodded in agreement. "You were awesome!"

Goku didn't appreciate the fact that he'd won the battle so easily. It had really been a long time since he'd fought someone for longer than a few minutes before they either surrendered or were knocked unconscious. He didn't let his disappointment show, however, merely took the electrical cord that Raquelle offered and "hogtied" the furian's hands and feet together with it.

"Will you be okay watching him?" he asked.

The mech shop owner looked around and saw that people were starting to emerge from where they'd hidden. "Oh, I'll be fine. I bet none of these people will allow him to get very far if he somehow gets free."

"Alright. I have to get home, then. I'll try to show up at Nipsy's tonight around... nine?" He briefly disappeared inside the shop to retrieve his box. "Come on, Goten," he said once back outside again.

"Bye, Elly!" Goten waved as he skipped after his father. "See ya later!"

"See ya, Goten!" She waved then turned her attention back to the felled furian (who was now waking up). "I'm sure as hell not going to let you get off on a technicality this time," she snarled. "And I have all of these lovely 'witnesses' to testify against you in court."

"Witnesses?" he groaned. "Weren't no witnesses." He blinked slowly up at the crowd of angry people that had gathered around him. There were more than just humans there: a pair of calico felids, a handful of slender ghazi, and even a maned ninx or two joined them. It sunk in then that he was well and truly screwed. The furian closed his eyes again and dropped his head back onto the street. Maybe his cousin's stories about jail had been greatly exaggerated. An image of a larger, meaner furian using his body as a punching bag came to mind and he shuddered. Then again, maybe not.

***
Goku and Goten headed through the sector towards home. Aros was much like the other nine primarily-residential sectors of Solaris (though it, like the others, had its own special uniqueness). It was inhabited by mostly families, though the word meant something far different to Solarans than it did to those who lived on planets. His own homeworld, Earth, still insisted that a family consisted of a man and a woman who were married and at least one biological child, which was often not the way families were in reality. On Solaris, a family was a group of people who cared about each other and that was that. So not only were there male/female couples with children but also same-sex couples with or without kids, roommates with kids, and groups of only adults bound together by shared experiences.

Aros, because of its high population density, was also filled with apartment buildings. Space was a very valuable commodity on a colony so buildings tended to be built upward instead of outward. The building where Goku and his family lived was five stories and housed over 60 people. He was pretty friendly with everyone on their floor and the two below as there were only four apartments per floor. Goten's closest friend lived across the hall. There was a strong sense of community in the building that only grew larger when the entire sector was taken into consideration. He could count on his neighbors to watch out for his children as he would watch out for their own. It definitely hadn't been that way on Earth and he was glad that he'd moved as soon as he'd gotten the chance. Once his grandfather had died, he hadn't seen a point in remaining there.

He'd met Chi Chi on the shuttle to Solaris. She was a native of Earth as well, but she had only been traveling to Solaris to visit a friend. She had no intention of living there. After spending five days on the shuttle, they'd gotten to know each other pretty well and had each considered the other to be a friend. Once the shuttle docked at their destination, they reluctantly parted but not before exchanging contact information. It had only taken a few more meetings for Chi Chi to fall in love with him. Goku, however, was still waiting for those feelings to surface. Oh, there wasn't any doubt that he cared about her well-being, but he wasn't sure that what he felt for her was love.

From what he understood of the emotion, love was supposed to make you feel as if every nerve ending in your body became alive whenever you were near the one you loved. When he was around Chi Chi, he mostly felt like finding an excuse to be elsewhere. While he felt something for her that equated to affection, she often made him forget that whenever she started nagging him about something. Not a day went by when she wasn't complaining. Once upon a time, when Gohan had been small, she didn't think he worked often enough since they were always just barely making ends meet. When he picked up more hours at the garage, she began to complain that he wasn't home enough. It had gotten to the point that he usually tuned her out from the moment she opened her mouth. If what she had to say was truly important, he could always count on one of his sons to tell him about it later. The three of them shared a sort of camaraderie due to the fact that they were all victims of Chi Chi's verbal abuse.

"Tousan, can I go over to Chisa's? Her brother's home from college for a little while and he can watch us." His father usually had no objection to him spending time with his best friend, but her parents worked long hours and she was usually left in the care of a baby-sitter. Goku had suggested to Chi Chi that she looked after Chisa when her parents were at work since the little girl and Goten got along so well, but that had earned him a reproving look for even bringing up such a thing. She had then told him that it was hard enough looking after Goten. That had sparked an unusual reaction from Goku and he asked her in a tone that was only slightly below shouting why Chi Chi bothered to look after her children at all. As soon as the words had left Goku's mouth he had regretted them, but when he tried to apologize, Chi Chi had coldly shut him out.

He usually said yes to Goten's requests, but it was too close to dinner for him to be out and about. Heaven forbid if someone held up a meal in their home. "Check the time, son. It's almost five." Goten's face fell, but he didn't bother to whine about the unfairness of their strict dinner time. He had learned long ago that protesting his mother's scheduling was useless.

"Well, can I go over there after dinner?" he asked.

"We'll see."

They entered the building, greeting the twin sisters from the fifth floor who were sitting on the stoop before they did so. Very few of the apartment buildings had elevators as the Solaran government had deemed them wastes of energy. While it made things difficult for those moving in or out of the building (and for the elderly who couldn't get apartments on the lower floors) it did give you a good work-out. Goku and Goten raced each other up the stairs to the third floor and Goku, as usual, allowed his son to win. Goten pumped his fists in the air in triumph, knowing full well what his father had done but enjoying his victory anyway, and entered their home.

"Kaasan[2] we're home!" he called, automatically toeing his shoes off at the front door. When he received no answer, he shrugged and threw himself onto the sofa. "Maybe she went to the store."

"Maybe," Goku said. But it wasn't likely. Chi Chi loved schedules and loved sticking to them. Her shopping was done in the morning on a weekday when the local grocery store wasn't crowded. For her to be shopping in the evening after all of the kids had been released for school and after a lot of people were heading home from work was highly unusual.

The sound of footsteps on the wooden floor of the back hallway caused Goku to abandon his thoughts. Gohan stood there, a fragile look on his fifteen-year-old face that tore at Goku's heart. There was a piece of paper clutched in the hand he offered to his father.

No one moved or said a word. Not even Goten (who really wanted to know what was going on). Then Gohan's control faltered and tears began sliding down his cheeks. "She's gone," he said. "Okaasan's gone."



[1] = informal version of "father"
[2] = informal version of "mother"
Chapter 2 by Goku Girl
He was awakened by the sound of the computer as it alerted him to the close proximity of Gnoll. He was still about an hour and a half out, but in heavily trafficked areas that was better than being five minutes away. As he was nearing his destination, he contacted the space traffic controller on Gnoll to request a docking berth and a place in the arrival queue. The number he was given wasn't bad, but neither was it good. Since Gnoll was home to the famous Eona Luxury Resort, he was fortunate to have a chance to dock the same day he arrived in Gnollian space.

Well, it gave him time to sort out his affairs. As paperwork was the part he most hated about being in business for himself, he often put off doing it. Of course, any information on said business gave the impression that he ran simple transport operation. Smuggling was illegal, after all. And often for good reason.

On the job before the one that had taken him to MO-12, he'd transported live animals. Dangerous live animals, the kind that liked to eat people for lunch. While it had been fun to wrestle the giant carnivorous cats into steel cages large enough to hold a furian, it had been significantly less fun to hear them yowl from the small cargo hold the entire way to Amida. Because of this, he'd demanded a sizeable bonus from the client and had sworn to never transport the living ever again. Inanimate objects were no big deal and the dead were eternally silent. (And he would know since he'd transported quite a few dead bodies over the years. It wasn't his business to know what the client would do with the cadaver once it arrived and he was certain that he didn't want to know.)

As he was putting the finishing touches on the report, his ship's computer let him know that he had an incoming transmission. With a muttered curse, he told it to allow it on audio only and continued to work.

"Vegeta, engage the video. Now!"

His cursing became louder and more foul as soon as he recognized the distinctive, demanding voice of one Buruma Briefs. "What do you want now?" he asked, not bothering to obey her command.

"Is that any way to speak to a lady?" she asked.

"Well, when I see one, I'll be sure to ask. Did you contact me only to annoy me as usual? If so, I'm going to hang up on you. Again."

"Wait, Vegeta, I have something serious to talk to you about. Turn on the visual." There was a brief pause. "Please," she added.

It was so unusual to hear her politely request something, that he typed in the command to allow her head and shoulders to fill the small rectangular window of the communication console. Buruma's carefully made up face didn't do anything for him, not anymore. If anything, she had on more make-up than was attractive. Her blue-green hair was done up in intricate curls and twists and he could just barely see the top of a strapless green sequined evening gown.

"So..." he prompted.

Buruma bit her lip in nervousness. "I need you to come get Trunks," she finally blurted.

He looked up slowly from the document he was bent over and stared at the mother of his son. "You want me to what?"

"Come. Get. Trunks. He's impossible to control, Vegeta, and I probably have your Saiya-jin genetics to thank for that!"

"You can't handle one eleven-year-old boy? You?" He said this in a false wondering tone, knowing full well that she was ill-suited to raising children. Hell, most of the time she made her mother take care of him. Anyone would be a better parent than Buruma Briefs, even Satan himself.

Anyone except him, that is.

But did he really not mind his son growing up in the environment that Buruma would provide for him? Did he want him to feel as if he were only a burden? Vegeta understood what it felt like to know that your parent only kept you around out of duty, that love had never, ever been a part of the equation.

"Is he with you?" he asked finally.

"No, I'm on vacation on Gnoll. He's with Okaasan."

Gnoll. Great. "I'm headed there right now. We need to see a lawyer and have your guardianship rights signed over to me. I'm definitely going to need some sort of proof to go pick him up. You know your parents despise me."

"I don't think they despise you, just what you do for a living. Anyway, how does tomorrow sound? I have something to do later so today isn't good."

"So I can see. You go on ahead and enjoy your fancy party. I have a delivery to complete anyway. Tomorrow afternoon I'll contact you with the information you'll need to wash your hands of him."

She looked horrified at the way he'd worded what she was doing. "I'm not writing him off, Vegeta."

"Oh, really? You don't call signing him into my care because you don't want to deal with him anymore writing him off? What would you call it then, Buruma?" When she couldn't find anything to say in response, he nodded in a self-satisfied way. "I'll see you tomorrow." He then disconnected the transmission and let his head drop into his hands. What was he supposed to do with a kid? Beyond the occasional visit whenever he was near Amida, he'd never really spent any time with his son.

Well, there had to be books or vid discs or something he could purchase on Gnoll to help him. Even though the natives (called folicans) were green-skinned and possessed tentacles, they still had children. And they were no longer the only citizens on the planet. Once the intergalactic free trade and free travel agreements had been drawn up, just about every known inhabited settlement (whether planet or colony) had seen an influx of different species. The settlements that remained unaffected by the agreements had done so by choice. His homeworld, Vegeta, had been one of them.

He also had to think long and hard about whether or not he would keep up his business. With a kid along, his already-risky job would become infinitely more dangerous. God, he hated change. But sometimes change was necessary.

Once on Gnoll, he immediately searched for -- and found -- the nearest public access computer. Every civilized settlement had one for the usage of its citizens as well as for its guests. He performed a search query on family legal services and received quite a few results. After narrowing them down by using the keyword "human", he had a list of five. Since he was wary of just randomly picking one, he decided to make a trip to each office after his delivery was made.

Eona was everything he had heard it to be... and more. He could easily see why people would use their life savings for even a day or two at Eona. There were fountains and carefully-landscaped lawns everywhere. The resort boasted tennis courts, a large golf course, three swimming pools, a health spa and gym, and more. All he saw was the delivery entrance, but even that was opulent. The employee who met him at the back entrance recognized the name of his false shipping company (Intergal[1] Express) on the sides of the crates and grinned.

"You're ahead of schedule, man," the felid said happily. His hair had been dyed an eye-searing orange that clashed horribly with his short brown fur. "We can start off-loading this stuff before the big bash tonight. There's gonna be so many people in a party mood that we'll probably sell out."

It wasn't at all unusual for people to receive illegal deliveries at their places of business. If they were caught, they could easily deny all knowledge of how the shipment came to be there. Though sweetgrass wasn't illegal to smoke on Gnoll, it was illegal to bring any onto the planet or grow it and therein lay the conundrum that most who wished to obtain the narcotic found themselves lost in. So it was up to smugglers like Vegeta to to supply it and most charged an exorbiant fee for the service. Vegeta was no exception.

"If you really appreciate my fast service, you'll give me a ten percent bonus," the Saiya-jin suggested.

The felid stared at him for a moment then grinned again. "Okay, sure. We'll have loads of extra cash after today. I'll transfer your payment into your account as soon as I can. Thanks again!" He waved goodbye and wheeled the dolly into the hotel.

Vegeta returned to the street in his rented SUV and pointed the vehicle in the direction of the nearest family law office on his list. Ten minutes later, he was convinced that he had wasted his time. The partner that escorted him to his office had been pleasant... at first. As soon as he'd heard why he needed legal aid, that all changed.

Grell-sa, a ninx, was a family-oriented man. That was pretty obvious just by the sheer amount of family photos and childish crayon drawings he had on his walls and on his desk. He launched into a lecture about the importance of preserving family structure that Vegeta tuned out after thirty seconds. As soon as Grell-sa had reached a break in his monologue, Vegeta stood up and walked out. He'd wanted the man to be aware of exactly when he'd left and not be still lost in the midst of his lecture.

He was on the next-to-last law office before he'd struck gold. Faith Thomas was human and a divorcee with three children (which meant she could understand child custody cases). She drew up a contract with a minimum of fuss and was willing to delay leaving the office to give Buruma a chance to get there.

"Do me a favor and have him ready by the end of the week," he told her as they were exiting back out into the Gnollian city of Fresia. The sun was setting and its light was tinting everything dull gold. "I keep a tight schedule and don't have time to wait for him to pack and say goodbye to his friends."

"What friends?" she snorted. "Trunks scares away every child that comes into contact with him. I've had to take him out of four excellent, difficult-to-get-into schools because he keeps starting fights."

"Have you bothered to ask him why?" When Buruma declined to answer, he rolled his eyes. "Nevermind. It was stupid to ask you such a thing. When have you ever taken an interest in your son's life other than to punish him?"

For a moment Buruma looked as if she would slap him. "Look, you bastard, I love my son."

"Loving him isn't enough in this case. You have to be willing to be tough with him when he's being rebellious and hug him when he's feeling down. Do you know how many times I wished that my father wasn't the asshole that he is?" Vegeta turned away from her, pissed off at himself for admitting such a thing to a woman who often got on his last nerve. It wasn't helping at all to preserve his "badass" image, though. "Look, I'll look after him from now until he grows up. You don't have to worry about it anymore."

She bit her lip, unsure of whether or not she should say something. Then she made up her mind and said, "Please, for his sake, get out of the smuggling business. I don't want to see him dead. Either of you," she added.

"You act like I'm an assassin," he smirked. "I assure you, smuggling isn't nearly as dangerous."

"Still, Vegeta."

"Fine, fine," he grumbled. "I was thinking about it anyway. I have a place on Solaris in the Hedin sector. When he gets settled, I'll let you know about it. Maybe you can come and visit him."

"Maybe."

It was as good as he was going to get. Nodding farewell, Vegeta crossed the parking lot and got into the SUV. He watched as Buruma headed for a little red sports car and pull off with a brief honk of the horn. He glanced over once at the document lying innocently in the passenger seat, amazed at how quickly his life had changed. With a soft sound that could have been a sigh, Vegeta drove back to his ship and his soon-to-be-former life.

***
Goku had gone to bed hoping that yesterday had been only a strange dream. His wife wouldn't abandon them. She would always be around no matter what. When he awoke the next morning, he'd automatically reached over to the left side of the bed where Chi Chi slept and encountered a warm body snuggled up to his own. A faint smile appeared on his face and he opened his eyes to watch his wife sleep and realized that the person he was touching was Gohan. Goten was curled up on the other side and both boys clutched at him in their sleep, afraid that he would abandon them too. Goku silently cursed his wife for damaging their children. He had a feeling that it would take a long time for either of them to truly trust anyone again.

A glance at the clock on the nearby bedside table showed that it was close to seven a.m. As it was a school day, his sons would have to get up immediately to make it before the eight o'clock bell. Goku contemplated the merits of forcing them to go to school even though it was probably the last thing they wanted after what had happened the previous day and decided that it wouldn't hurt them to stay home for a day. It was Friday and having a three-day weekend would do more good than ill. His mind made up, Goku closed his eyes and willed himself to return to sleep.

An hour or so passed before he woke up again. Gohan was gone from the bed, but Goten was still deeply asleep. He wondered if his eldest had awakened on his own and decided to go to school. Almost as soon as he thought about it, the door to his bedroom opened and Gohan entered with a breakfast tray holding a bowl of Goten's favorite cereal, toast, bacon, and juice. "Tousan, Goten, are you guys awake yet?" he asked quietly.

"I am, but you know your brother won't wake up of his own free will." They shared a weak smile.

Gohan sat down on the bed, one leg folded beneath him, and set the tray down nearby. "What are we going to do now?"

"We're going to move on. What else can we do? She didn't leave information on how to contact her and everything of hers is gone so I doubt she'll be back. Listen, Gohan, Chi Chi's decision to leave wasn't your fault. Neither was it Goten's. She made up her own mind."

"It wasn't yours either," Gohan told him.

"I know it wasn't," he sighed, "but sometimes you might have to remind me."

He woke up his youngest and the three of them had a companionable -- if subdued -- morning meal. While he ate, Goku tried to find a specific instance when Chi Chi's presence would be sorely felt and really could not. While she had been the cook of the household and had taken care of their home, that was pretty much all she had done. Goku had been the one to encourage the boys, play games with them, and ease their fears. Chi Chi had only nagged and nagged and nagged. Oh, when Gohan and Goten had been very little she used to cuddle them and kiss them and treat them like princes, but once they started school she'd wanted them to be independent. She had heard horror stories about good-for-nothing "Mama's boys" from other women and desperately didn't want her own boys to become like that.

They each would miss her because she had been a constant in their lives, one they'd thought would never go away. She had also claimed to love and care for them, but her recent actions did much to disprove that. Goku spent a long time looking at his sons, hoping that they would bounce back soon.



[1] = intergal is shorthand for "Intergalatic Confederation of Worlds"
Chapter 3 by Goku Girl
Originally Amida had been developed as a vacation spot for the rich but had become a settlement in its own right when some of those people decided not to return home. The planet was a small blue-green sphere that sat isolated much like the human homeworld of Earth. It even bore a superficial resemblance when seen from space, but once you landed, if you had ever been to Chikyuu you definitely couldn't draw a comparison unless you had seen it before the humans began systematically destroying it. Amida, even after settlement, still retained a wild and primordial quality.

Vegeta berthed his ship in the public section of the docks and caught a cab the instant he stepped onto the street. Dressed as he was in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt, The perpetually tropical weather of Amida's capital city of Grath was going to kill him. He was also thinking about investing in a pair of sunglasses to stop the bright sun from blinding him.

After a quick trip to the touristy section of the city where all manner of tacky goods were sold, he was outfitted better for the weather. He hoped that he wouldn't be on the planet for more than a day, but had no idea what was waiting for him at Buruma's parents' house.

The cab ride to the Briefs estate wasn't very long and he was taken through neighborhoods that looked as if they were either movie sets or belonged on the glossy covers of fine living magazines. It suddenly made sense why the cab driver had asked him if he was sure that he had the right address. He'd always insisted that Trunks was dropped off at wherever they were going to spend the day so that he wouldn't have to deal with Buruma's parents. It wouldn't be at all surprising to him if the oppressive atmosphere of the neighborhood was one of the reasons why Trunks was acting out.

By the time he pulled up to 213 Hawthorne Place he was very ready to leave Amida. Each and every property looked as if it was trying to compete with that of its neighbors in terms of grandeur and landscaping (which probably wasn't at all far from the truth). So much money was going to waste. Who needed a damn artificial waterfall anyway?

He actually had to get out and press the button on the intercom so that someone in the house would open the huge wrought iron gates. The cab driver wasn't willing to wait for him, at first, but all it took was a brief wave of a bill of large denomination in his face. He assumed that Trunks was ready and waiting for him. He'd contacted them from space when he was waiting for an arrival window and that had been an hour and a half ago. There should be no delays. And in a perfect world there wouldn't be.

As it turned out, he had to wait a while for his son to finally get all of his things together (and he definitely had a lot of things). There had already been boxes upon boxes of belongings in the entrance hall when his grandmother finally admitted him into the house, but the pre-teen was still bringing down more. It seemed that Buruma and her parents had tried to buy Trunks' affection. As there wasn't really any room in his two-bedroom efficiency apartment, most of his son's things would either have to be placed into storage or sold. He was leaning towards the latter as he didn't want to rent storage space.

"Trunks!" he shouted up the stairs. "If you aren't down here in thirty seconds, I'm going to make you pay for the cab ride to the shuttle port!" Briefs-san frowned at him for raising his voice and he ignored her.

Trunks came barrelling down the stairs with one final box. "Jeez, you act like I took half a day."

"Half an hour is long enough when the meter's running. I hope you're aware that there is no way in hell all of this is going to fit in that car."

"You shoulda rented a truck, then," Trunks informed him.

Ignoring his smartass remark, Vegeta said, "Pick out which ones you want to take along with you. Your grandparents are going to ship the rest at their expense."

"We're going to do what?" Trunks' grandmother asked.

"I naturally assumed since it's your daughter who's disrupting Trunks' life that you or she would foot some of the cost of moving him." Behind his father, Trunks began to grin in amusement. Few people were willing to stand up to his grandparents or his mother because they were so wealthy and influential. He and Vegeta were a lot alike in personality. For the first time ever Trunks didn't feel like he had no real family.

"Fine," Briefs-san agreed reluctantly as she opened the drawer of a nearby end table to retrieve a piece of paper and a writing utensil so that she could take down the shipping information. She was actually relieved to have her grandson out of her home. He had done nothing but disrupt her life from the moment Buruma had brought him home from the hospital.

Vegeta and Trunks carried out his things to the waiting taxi and drove off to the shuttle port. The Saiya-jin could clearly see the glee in the man's eyes at how high the numbers were on the meter. He really wasn't going to make Trunks pay for his delay with money, but it couldn't hurt to make him do a lot of the small jobs around his apartment that he himself hated. They'll just see how arrogant Trunks would be after scrubbing the toilet with a toothbrush.

After scheduling a departure window, Vegeta took the time to really look at his son. He was a little on the short side like himself and they shared the same general bone structure, but his hair was lavender like his grandfather's had been once upon a time. It made him think that Buruma's true hair color was the same shade instead of that awful greenish-blue she favored. Trunks also had his mother's eyes, but they were sharper and more cunning. While the intelligence had been inherited from his mother and grandfather, the two elder Briefs family members had an annoying habit to become so focused on one thing that they neglected everything else. Trunks, on the other hand, would probably be excellent at multi-tasking.

It was a little while after they'd gotten settled into their seats before Trunks broached a subject neither of them were willing to touch. "Why are you doing this? Okaasan doesn't want me and she saw me every day. You're taking over and you were hardly ever around."

"It has more to do with my own father than with you, I think." Vegeta was nothing if not honest. He had a feeling that Trunks would hardly appreciate being lied to. "He spent a lot of his time trying to control me and make me into something that I'm not. Even though he was always around, we never really spent any father-son time together. When I'm on Amida, don't we have a good time?"

"Yeah," Trunks admitted. "I have more fun with you than I ever have with them. But that just makes it even harder to go home afterward. I used to think about running away a lot when I was little."

"'When you were little'?" he asked with amusement. "Just how old do you think you are?"

"I'm almost twelve," was his defensive response. "Most of the time I feel a lot older than eleven anyway."

Vegeta nodded. "That's part of the problem, huh? You don't want to spend all your time around kids."

"Exactly!" He looked relieved that someone finally understood. "Okaasan wouldn't let me skip grades 'cause she said that I needed to be around kids my own age. 'Trunks, you have to form important social contacts for the future!'" He imitated his mother's customary pompous tone of voice fairly accurately. "But they're all stupid and boring. And the schoolwork's so fuckin' easy!"

Frowning at his language, Vegeta started to reprimand him but then decided against it. He didn't want Trunks comparing him to his mother. Besides, it was just a word. Finally an incoming transmission letting him know that it was his turn to launch saved him from making a comment. "Strap yourself in, kid. We're taking off."

"Aye aye, Cap'n," was the sarcastic reply.

***
Life continued at the Son apartment. His boys returned to school on Monday no worse for wear, but not really any better, either. While Goten had his friend Chisa to take his mind off of things, Gohan had no one. He had never really been able to connect with his peers.

Goku brought his worry to work where he constantly made stupid mistakes due to inattention. Fortunately his boss was understanding when he gave him a brief overview of the situation, but he didn't think that his understanding would last for very much longer.

One of his co-workers, a ghazi named Feril, was honestly concerned about him. They'd begun a sort of cordial acquaintanceship since Feril started working there about five months before, but they'd never spent any time together outside of work. While they were working on a newly-restored classic auto for one of their more loyal (and wealthy) clients, Feril brought up his recent preoccupation.

"Goku, what's going on with you?" the four-foot, twelve-inch tall emerald green-furred fox-like man cocked his head at him, his dark eyes focused on Goku's own.

"It's a long story," the Saiya-jin sighed.

"Well, it's almost time for our lunch break so you can tell me then."

They finished up what they were doing and headed off to a nearby restaurant instead of the employee lounge. Even though it was small, there was still privacy that they wouldn't be able to have in the lounge. After placing their orders, Feril steepled his fingers and waited for Goku to start speaking.

"My wife left me. Left us. She just up and left Thursday before the boys and I came home with hardly an explanation. Gohan and Goten are devastated. Me? I'm mostly disappointed and angry on their behalf."

"That's terrible, Goku. Are you going to look for her?"

He shook his head and sighed for what seemed like the hundredth time since learning of Chi Chi's desertion. "She didn't say where she was going and I'm starting to think that maybe it was for the best. Once upon a time she loved me -- was maybe even in love with me -- but that's changed. We wouldn't be doing the boys any favors by trying to stay together."

Feril reached across the table and laid his small hand atop Goku's. "If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm here."

"Thanks," he smiled, silently hoping that Feril wasn't coming on to him. He really wasn't into cross-species relationships, not that Feril wasn't handsome... for a ghazi, anyway. He also wasn't yet ready to move on.

They spent the remainder of lunch in affable companionship.

***
Gohan had been instructed to be at home before his brother got there, which was nigh on impossible since not only was his school farther away from the apartment but his school day ended thirty minutes after Goten's did. He didn't remind his father of this because he didn't want to add to the burden that his mother had left him with. So instead he'd asked Goten to stay at school until he came to get him and promised to be as quick as possible.

Goten was playing some sort of hand game with Chisa on the front steps of the school when he showed up. Making a face, Gohan asked himself (not for the first time) why his little brother was so girly at times.

"Hey, you two ready?" he called.

"Yeah!" they shouted in unison, grabbing their backpacks and running over to where he stood on the sidewalk. Goten hugged his Gohan impulsively and Chisa did exactly what he did -- as usual. The little felid girl didn't have any siblings of her own and thought of Goten as her adopted brother as well as her best friend.

"Can I stay with you guys today?" she asked with pleading sapphire eyes. "I'm tired of being alone all the time."

"Can she, Gohan? Pleeeeeeease?" Now two sets of large, liquid eyes were staring up at him.

Knowing it was a lost cause, Gohan gave in. "Okay, she can stay over. Just don't bother me; I've got homework to do."

"Yay!" they shouted, running ahead of him impatiently. Gohan rolled his eyes at their antics, wondering if all kids were like that. If so, he didn't think he would ever have any.

Once they got home and he'd dismissed the baby-sitter waiting for Chisa (who was very happy to have a day off), he somehow got them to sit still long enough to do their homework. It also gave him time to start a report on cell mutation that was due soon for Biology. He'd checked out the necessary books from his high school's library as well as a few from the local public branch, but he still had to create an outline and actually read the books for information. He quickly lost himself in a lengthy passage about the natural resistance that furians had against many infectious diseases, the world around him fading into the background.

In the living room, Goten and Chisa had already grown bored with their worksheets and had turned on the television. After only ten minutes of watching cartoons, they decided that they were hungry. Unfortunately the kitchen was nearly empty since Goku had yet to do the grocery shopping for that week. After checking the refrigerator, just about the only things in there were condiments, bread, cheese, milk, and orange juice. Everything else was either raw and frozen. "Hey, I can make grilled cheese. It's the only thing we have all the stuff for."

"You sure you know how to do that?" Chisa asked.

"Yeah, it's not hard. Niichan[1] does it all the time."

"Gohan-niichan's older than us, though. And he's tall enough to reach over the top of the stove."

Goten waved her protests away and grabbed the ingredients that he needed. Chisa hovered worriedly nearby, every single warning her parents had ever gave her about not using the stove without adult supervision going through her mind. But she didn't say anything else, only hoped that she wouldn't have to call the fire department.

The youngest Son retrieved a frying pan from one of the lower cupboards and covered the inside with cooking spray. Then he spread butter on four slices of bread and stuck two of them in the pan with a slice of cheese between them. Remembering that he would need something to flip the sandwiches with, he rummaged through a drawer for a spatula.

"Pour us some juice and stop worrying. Nothing's going to go wrong." He took one of the kitchen chairs and pushed it up against the stove so he could reach better.

With everything he did, Chisa grew more and more tense. When he set the cooktop temperature, she bit her lip. When the sandwich began to smoke, she covered her eyes.

"Oops. We're gonna have to throw that one away." Goten hopped down from the chair and carried the pan over to the trash can to discard the burned grilled cheese.

"Can we please ask Gohan to make us something?" she begged.

"What? You don't think I can do it?"

She shook her head. "Nuh uh."

"Hey, I thought you were my best friend!" he whined.

"I am but I don't wanna get burned up in a fire." Her decision made, she ran off to Gohan's room. "I'm gonna get Gohan."

"Stop, Chisa!" he shouted. When she ignored him, he raised his voice even louder. "CHISA!"

This broke Gohan's concentration. He looked up from his book and frowned at the closed door of the bedroom he shared with Goten. A few seconds later, Chisa burst through the door without knocking -- as per usual. "Gohan, stop him! He's trying to use the stove all by himself."

"What?!"

Goten followed her. "She's exaggerating. I'm not going to set anything on fire. It was only one sandwich..."

"But you still used the stove!" The teen tossed his book aside and went out ot assess the damage. "Tousan's not going to be happy when he hears about this."

"Then don't tell him."

"Goten, I have to tell him! He left me in charge and I really feel bad about lying to him."

The ten-year-old tried to use the "puppy dog look" to get his brother to keep what he did a secret but it wasn't going to work this time. Knowing that he was going to be punished, Goten headed straight for the living room. His father's punishments usually involved taking away his TV time.

Chisa looked torn. Gohan patted her on the head and praised her, knowing that she felt guilty about tattling. "Thank you for telling me."

"You're welcome, but I hope he's not mad at me."

"Even if he is, you did the right thing." He started to say something more when a loud, shrill beeping sound startled both of them.

"What is that?" Chisa said above the noise.

"It's the smoke detector!" Gohan ran into the hallway in search of the source of the smoke. As he feared, it was coming from the kitchen. The frying pan was sitting atop the stove and the cooktop was still on. The remnants of the sandwich Goten threw away was stuck to the bottom of the pan and was the source of the thick gray smoke. Coughing, Gohan fanned it away and turned off the stove.

Two small faces peeked at him from around the doorway, Goten's lower than Chisa's. His younger brother wore a look of terror. Nearly starting a fire and blackening the bottom of a pan would earn him a punishment far greater than just using the stove. He now knew for certain that there was no way that Gohan would be able to forget that he'd ever done anything wrong. Not with the evidence sitting in the sink.

"You might as well get in all the television time you can because it's going to be at least a month before Tousan allows you to watch it again," his brother said, weary with the relief that disaster had been averted.

"I'm sorry," Goten said meekly. "I won't do it again."

"I hope not. What if I hadn't been home when this happened? What if you had burned up the entire apartment? Goten, Tousan tells you not to do things for a reason, but maybe he needs to add an explanation when he does it." Personally, Gohan figured if someone in authority instructed you to do or not do something then it was in your best interest to listen, but he knew that a lot of people didn't see things that way. They needed to know the reason behind everything they were told. "You and Chisa are going back in the living room and are going to finish your homework. Hopefully this'll happen before Tousan comes home. I'll try to delay the inevitable as long as I can, but you'll have at least ten minutes after he gets here since he usually takes a shower before dinner." He had instructions to order take-out since there was hardly anything to eat in the house.

"Okay, Niichan. C'mon, Chisa." The two children did as told without protest and Gohan had at least an hour's worth of work to look forward to. He could at least reduce the damage before his father got home. He might go easy on Goten if he didn't have the evidence of his misbehavior staring him in the face.

"This on top of everything else," he muttered. It was really turning out to be a bad month.



[1] = short for "oniichan", which is an informal word for older brother. The formal word is oniisan.
Chapter 4 by Goku Girl
Trunks beat him off the ship when they docked at Solaris. His father ignored all of his impatient urgings and continued to fully shut down everything on the ship since he didn't know when he would be back. With one look, he caused Trunks to remember that they had to unload his luggage and the boy crossed the metal dock with a disgruntled look on his face.

"Go get a dolly. There should be some over there near the tower."

"What am I, your slave?"

"Yes," Vegeta answered without missing a beat. "What else are kids good for? Now go do what I say before you piss me off."

Somehow Trunks knew that pissing off his father was a very bad thing indeed. "As you command, Master," he said, bowing, before scampering off to fetch a dolly.

Vegeta had a feeling that his life was going to be disrupted beyond repair. Originally he'd figured that he would give Trunks a week or two to get settled in before he put his newly-created rules into effect. Said rules were pretty much designed to make Trunks' presence in his life nearly non-existent.

Enforcing them would make him no better than his ex-lover and her parents.

Right then and there as he watched his son coast along on the dolly as if it were a giant skateboard he decided that he would not stifle Trunks at all. If he was to grow up and become successful it was important that he was allowed to be himself as much as possible.

He let Trunks ride on the dolly like a much younger child but he had a feeling that the boy had been denied many simple pleasures over the course of his young life. The dock was busy but not overly so. Male and female, young and old, human and felid and ghazi and others were loading and uploading merchandise, working on their ships, or just passing the time. Activity on Dock M-8 was a fact of life as many traders and merchants had permanent bays there.

He was fortunate enough to be one of them.

Solaris was a very productive colony and it was next to impossible to take up permanent residence there let alone have a permanent "parking space". Vegeta's own space was inherited from the man he'd served under while he was still learning the ins and outs of the smuggling business. The apartment he rented had been Malcon's as well. When the 57-year-old man had met a gruesome end due to a deal gone bad, the sole benefactor of his will had been Vegeta. He'd pretty much inherited Malcon's business, complete with merchandise and a customer base. The ship was inherited as well. While Malcon had called it the Angel, Vegeta referred to it only by a series of letters and numbers. He didn't see the point of naming inanimate objects -- vehicular or otherwise.

"Hey, Papa, that guy over there is tryin' to get your attention." Trunks leaned precariously over a box and yanked on his father's shirt.

Vegeta almost smiled. Trunks had never called him anything before. He had long ago adopted the habit of launching directly into whatever he wanted to talk about. He supposed that it was his son's way of distancing himself from his "drop-in dad". For him to call him papa now was a sign that he truly believed that Vegeta wasn't going to abandon him.

"That's the dockmaster of M-8. Everyone who comes here has to see him before they're allowed into the colony." In his preoccupation he had almost walked by the small building where the dockmaster-on-duty spent his time. It was right next to the air lock that allowed entrance into Solaris proper.

"A lot on your mind?" the gruff ninx asked as he gave Vegeta's citizenship documents and ship registration a cursory glance. The masters generally knew each and every person who had a permanent space on their docks but it was Solaran law for them to present identification and proof of ownership for their ships.

"When isn't there?" he muttered. Louder he said, "This is Trunks. He's going to be living with me until he's old enough for me to legally kick out." His son twisted his head around to eye Vegeta, unsure if he was joking or not. When he caught the wink that he threw at him, Trunks began to grin.

"Well, between now and then I'm gonna make his life a living hell," the boy said, his grin turning sinister.

"He a citizen?"

"Not yet. I still have to fill out the forms."

"Remember: you only have a month to get the process started. If the gov finds out you have him here and there's no record of him in the database..." The ninx handed back his paperwork and slid a clawed finger across his throat.

Trunks looked horrified.

"He's exaggerating," Vegeta said quickly, glaring at the dockmaster. "They'll probably just fine me."

"Are you willing the find out?" the dockmaster asked.

Not bothering to reply, Vegeta slid the documents into the bag he wore over his shoulder and continued on his way. Behind him he could hear the ninx muttering something to himself that sounded a lot like, "What does he know about taking care of a kid?"

Of course it was true that he had only been a drop-in dad and had only taken Trunks out to have fun, but he was confident that he could learn quickly. After all, his son was a little boy whose only concerns were probably just school and growing up. How difficult could it be, really?

"How far away do you live?" Trunks asked as they entered the air lock.

"My apartment's in Hedin and this is one of the industrial sectors called Orn. We have a long way to go."

With a hiss of hydraulics, the reinforced steel door closed behind them and the atmospheric stabilizers went to work. The air locks were also designed to scan all occupants (living as well as inanimate) for signs of infectious diseases and illegal contraband. A soft blue beam of light swept over the air lock from one door to another then the lights came back on to signal that they had been cleared.

"What was that for?" Having never been inside a colony, he was fascinated by everything.

"It checks to see whether we're harmless or not."

When nothing more was forthcoming, Trunks picked up the conversation where they left off. "How far?"

"Solaris is broken up into twelve areas called sectors. There are three others like this one where docking areas are located along with factories. You saw from outside that it's kind of round?" Trunks nodded. "There are nine sectors in the Outer Ring and they're the oldest. The Inner Ring was still being used as a mech graveyard and general dumping ground until the population exploded last century and they were forced to develop it.

"Hedin is the third of the 'inner sectors', right between Ain and Aros. The people there try to pretend they're better than everyone else. I want to move out to the outer ring, but vacancies never come up in my price range."

"I know all about those kinds of people," his son said knowingly. "I went to school with a lot of 'em. You wanna learn how to take 'em down a notch?"

As if he was going to be told a great secret, Vegeta leaned forward. "Yeah?"

"Beat up the most popular one. Turn 'em into an example. Makes everyone else afraid of you, too. Life's a lot easier when they're all afraid."

For a moment Vegeta was transported back to his childhood. He could picture the way his father always made sure to loom over him with the hope of instilling respect in him. The king's words filled his head, echoing a dozen lectures. "Make them fear you and they will be easily controlled." That was how his father had ruled, and his father before him. There had never any room for kindness in their lives.

Looking at his son, he saw himself. But he would not repeat the mistakes of generations of Saiya-jin kings. He would not transform his son into a monster. "Trunks, you can't go around kicking ass and taking names."

"Why not? They always leave me alone afterwards."

"You can't do it because it's not right." Frantically, Vegeta searched his head for answers. "What do you think would happen if everyone beat up on the people who annoyed them?"

His face scrunched up as he tried to imagine it. Recess would never be the same, he bet. "That would be kinda crazy, huh?"

"Yeah. People would say that it's better to ask them why they're bothering you and then ask them to stop."

"Papa, what would you do?"

"I would kick some ass." Vegeta was, if nothing else, brutally honest. "But we can't always give in to what we want."

Trunks was awed. He would have never expected an adult to tell him the truth. "You would never lie to me, would you?"

"I'll try not to. I can't make any promises."

His son's smile could have lit up a room.

***
When his father came home he had headed straight for the shower. Feeling sorry for the punishment that would befall his younger brother, Gohan delayed calling the nearby Chinese restaurant so that his father would also be delayed going into the kitchen. They always ate in there at the table because his mother claimed that it was uncivilized to eat in front of the television. Now that she was gone, however, he figured that would change, but he wasn't sure if that evening would be the start of it.

Chisa went home after muttering a subdued greeting to Goku. Her mother was due home within the hour anyway so Gohan saw no harm in it. After all, they were just across the hall. It was Goten that needed to be carefully watched, after all, not Chisa.

His brother disappeared into the room they shared and shut the door, claiming to not be hungry. If that wouldn't alert their father that something had gone wrong while he was at work then nothing else would. Goten, on most days, was like a human garbage disposal. He went through food almost faster than they could buy it at the grocery store. For him not to eat was like a sign of the apocalypse.

Gohan wrung his hands in worry (a gesture he'd unconsciously picked up from his mother) and paced the living room floor. He'd always thought that he knew his father as well as he knew himself, but his mother had shaken him. If he was honest with himself, he would admit that his father was depressed. That surprised him and that made him feel horrible. Never had he gotten the impression that his parents felt anything for each other beyond obligation and maybe a little bit of caring. They weren't cold to each other, but they had never really been warm, either. There had been no passion in their relationship whatsoever. If he and his brother hadn't existed, he was sure that they would have separated as soon as a year into their marriage. As it was, Gohan had been conceived pretty quickly and there had been no time to reconsider (in his parents' opinion, anyway). He had no doubt that his mother and father would be better off without each other.

He heard the bathroom door creak open and froze mid-step. From the hall you could easily see into the living room. Quickly, he half-ran, half-hopped over to the couch and threw himself onto it with the pretense that he was going to watch television. His father entered the room as he was reaching for the remote to further authenticate his story. Smiling nervously, Gohan clicked on the TV and surfed for something to pretend to watch.

"Dinner's not here yet?" he asked as he took a seat beside his son.

"No, I'm sorry. I didn't call until after you got into the shower."

Goku shrugged. "Don't worry about it. Where's Goten? He's usually glued to the TV around this time."

"He went to his room. He, uh, has more homework to do." His palms were beginning to sweat and he rubbed them on his jeans.

"Gohan," his father began. He could always tell when his eldest was lying to him because he was so bad at it. Now Goten, on the other hand, could be a politician. "Did something happen?"

"No!" he squeaked. Clearing his throat, he repeated himself. "He just has homework to do."

"Uh huh. Are you sure we're talking about the same kid here? The one we usually have to threaten to take away his TV time to get him to do his homework before nine o'clock?"

"He's growing up?" Gohan tried.

"No, I don't think so. What's going on, son?"

Gohan sighed. "He tried to cook himself and Chisa a snack. Let's just say that if Chisa hadn't come to get me things might have turned out badly. It's partially my fault; I should have been watching him more closely."

"Gohan..."

"I completely understand if you don't trust me to look after him anymore," he continued. "I'll even understand if you think it's better that someone else was here to look after both of us."

"Gohan."

"What does a fifteen-year-old know about taking care of someone else? I can barely take care of myself."

"Gohan!" he shouted.

The young man finally stopped talking and turned his head to look at his father. "What?"

"Could you stop putting yourself down for a minute? I'm not angry at you. It's not your fault Goten is a mischievous ten-year-old boy. He probably would have tried to do something like that sooner or later even if I was home. I told him not to but you know how his mind works." Goku tipped his head back and stared up at the ceiling. "He learned a lesson and we're lucky he didn't kill himself or anyone else."

"Still, he shouldn't ignore what you say."

"I know, but he's a kid. Testing the boundaries is what they do." He peered at Gohan and smirked. "Now you, on the other hand, were born with the mind of a middle-aged man. You wouldn't even dream of breaking any rules. That's why I trust you so much. If you hadn't been around when she did this, if it had just been me and Goten..."

Gohan understood exactly what he was saying. He was keeping his father sane by organizing things and looking after his little brother. Goku had more than enough to worry about without adding his sons to the pile.

"How are you doing, son? I mean, really?"

"I'm... okay." He stared down at his hands then for a moment then shook his head. "No I'm not. My mother's gone and I don't know if she'll ever come back. It's like she didn't love us enough to stay, but my mind knows that's not true."

"You're right. I think the reason she left has more to do with me than with you and Goten. I was a bad husband."

"A bad husband for her. Okaasan just wasn't your soulmate, that's all. There are millions -- billions -- of single women out there -- you'll find someone."

Goku smiled at him with false cheer. "Yeah, I'll find someone." His son wasn't fooled but he didn't know what else to say so he remained silent. The two of them sat without speaking until the doorbuzzer sounded to alert them to their dinner's arrival. Suddenly they were in motion like ancient statues come to life.

While his father answered the door, Gohan went to retrieve his brother. He knocked on the door first and, after receiving no response, he slowly turned the knob and cracked it open. "Go-chan?" he said softly, using a nickname for Goten he'd stopped using with his brother was about six or seven years old.

"Go 'way," was the hiccupped reply.

He entered the room and sat down on the edge of his brother's bed. "Otousan's not too upset. You can come out and have dinner with us."

"I'm not upset about that." The little boy rubbed at his eyes and pushed himself up so that his back was against the headboard. "I'm upset because I did something stupid and made you mad. I don't like it when you're mad at me."

"I'm not mad," Gohan told him honestly. "You scared me a little, though. I don't want you trying that again unless Otousan or I are right there with you."

"Okay," he said in a small voice.

Sighing heavily, Gohan motioned to him with his hand. "Come here." When Goten climbed onto his lap, he hugged him. "I love you, alright? Nothing you do is ever going to make me stop loving you. Otousan feels the same way. Besides, if you weren't a brat you wouldn't be Goten." Grinning at him, he ruffled his hair. "Now are you done being depressed now?"

"Yeah." Little fingers quickly dug into his brother's sides and wriggled like worms. Gohan started in surprise and began to laugh and squirm to get away. "I'm not a brat!"

"Okay, okay! Stop tickling me!"

Hearing the noise coming from his sons' room, Goku went to investigate. Stopping in the doorway, he simply stood there and watched his boys play. He could always count on them to get along which was -- if television shows and movies were to be believed -- highly unusual. When Gohan's face started to turn a bright crimson red, he called a halt to Goten's tickle attack. "Dinnertime, boys. Wash your hands and meet me in the living room."

Goten snatched his hands back far too late and tried to adopt an innocent expression. Of course his father wasn't fooled. "Okaeri[1], 'tousan!"

Goku only smiled and left them to their task.

***
The trip to Hedin only took an hour but Trunks started complaining twenty minutes in. It wasn't as if he was walking, but Vegeta figured that boredom kicked in quickly in small children. He knew that he himself had been easily bored and it had been a challenge for his instructors to come up with new and interesting teaching methods.

Orn was incredibly boring to look at. As it was an industrial sector, the buildings were designed for function and nothing else. They'd passed by blocks upon blocks up square gray buildings with utilitarian steel doors and no windows save for rows of narrow, rectangular openings near the roof. There weren't even any people around to break up the monotony. One glance at his watch (that had never been changed from Solaran time) and Vegeta informed his son that it was near the end of the second shift and that there wouldn't be anyone around for another two-to-three hours. The residential sectors were far different usually. Even when the children were all at school, and a vast number of the adults were at work, there were still people around.

Another air lock separated Orn from the road that divided the Inner and Outer rings. There were air locks between every sector as well to stop accidents from becoming catastrophes. The Wayfarer's Road, while not very wide across, circled the entire Inner Ring. It was, of course, the main thoroughfare of Solaris and usually the most-traveled route between sectors as the air locks separating a sector from its neighbor were usually small and designed for only three-to-five people to fit in comfortably. For those traveling far, there was also a train system that served all sectors of the colony.

When the thick steel door opened to admit them into Hedin, Trunks let out a brief cheer. Compared to Orn his new home was a riot of color and sound.

Apartment buildings lined the street and quite a few contained small businesses on their ground floors. Just about every one of them were still open despite the semi-late hour and were serving a regular stream of customers. Trunks tried to take everything in at once and ended up making himself dizzy.

"I've never been anywhere like this before!" he exclaimed.

"Anywhere like what? Most, if not all, of the residential sectors resemble this. So do many of the other settlements in Intergal." Trunks' former homeworld popped up in his mind and he shuddered at the thought of the cold sterility that coated everything there. "Amida wasn't anything like this."

"Nuh uh. It was so freakin' perfect!" He made a disgusted face. "If you even touched anything there someone would yell at you."

"Not many people will do that here," he reassured him. "As long as it's public property, that is. Touch anyone's private property without permission and they have the right to chew you out. You understand?"

"Course I do. I'm eleven-and-a-half, not five."

"Just keep that in mind. Your mother may have screamed at you when you did something wrong, but I'm more creative than she is. If you want to see how well I can dish out punishment, just try me."

Trunks mock shivered. "Oooh, I'm sooooo scared!" But his eyes said that he would heed his father's warning.

Vegeta headed down the street until they came to the third intersection, then made a left. A few more turns and they were finally at his apartment building. It was five stories tall (with five-to-six apartments per floor) and was one of the largest in a four block radius.

"This is our stop," the small Saiya-jin said as he stopped the dolly beside a chain-link fence that guarded the plants from casual passersby. "We're going to unload all of these boxes in the lobby then carry them into the elevator. It'll be easier that way."

"If you say so," the boy said, climbing to his feet. He stumbled a little as millions of tiny pinpricks ran up and down them. He looked up at the building from his position on the sidewalk and tried to imagine what it looked like on the inside. "What floor do you live on?"

"What floor we live on," his father corrected. "This is your home now, Trunks. You don't have to act like you're a temporary guest."

The eleven-year-old gazed at him seriously. "I might be. You haven't really spent time with me before. I can, and probably will, drive you crazy and then I'll be sent back to Okaasan and the mummies."

Vegeta walked around the dolly and crouched in front of his son to put them on a more-or-less even level. "I won't do that. Who would do something like that to their own kid just because they annoyed them?"

"Okaasan," he said in a sad voice. Vegeta cursed Buruma mentally in several different languages. It would take a lot of time and effort on his part for him to undo the damage she'd done.

"Trunks, I'm not your mother. Thank God," he added just to make his son smile. It worked, but it was weak. "I'm not your mother so I'm not going to give you up. I know how it feels to not be wanted. My father considered me to be a burden and he always treated me like that. Why would I put you through the same thing I went through?"

Blue eyes began to fill with tears despite Trunks' best efforts to hold them back. "I think I love you already. I know I think you're ten-times better than Okaasan, Obaasan, and Ojiisan[2]." He wiped at his face, feeling like a little kid. Vegeta pulled him into an awkward hug. He had never really given comfort to anyone before and no one had ever given comfort to him. He was only going by what he'd seen on television and what he'd observed of the actions of others.

"I love you, Trunks. I'll never betray you."

The boy buried his face in his father's shoulder and emitted a muffled, "Now I know I love you!"

Eventually they separated, the eyes of both still suspiciously damp. Vegeta stood up again and pulled the key to the lobby out of his pocket, intending to prop the downstairs door open so that they could carry everything in. He was intensely embarrassed and was doing a pretty bad job of dealing with it.

Trunks watched him with a knowing smirk on his face. He could see himself in just about everything that his father did and it was nice to finally be around someone who understood him. But that wasn't going to stop him from teasing, however. "What's wrong, Papa?"

"Uh, nothing."

"It doesn't look like nothing. Did something get in your eye?" The look on his face was the picture of innocence, but the expression in his eyes gave him away.

"Yeah, I think it did. Looks like you were hit by the same thing I was, huh?" Vegeta looked at him over his shoulder with a smirk identical to the one his son now wore. "Damn insects." Not that there were many insects on the colony, mind you.

Vegeta and Trunks worked together to move the boxes and the work was completed quickly. In less than an hour, everything was stacked in Vegeta's spartan living room. The entire apartment was a little bare, actually. As he had never been home for an extended period of time, he hadn't bothered furnishing the place. He had a feeling that his new roommate would appreciate more decor, however.

"It's perfect," Trunks said, returning to the living room after his brief tour of the apartment.

The corners of his father's mouth twitched upward. Then again, maybe everything was fine how it was.




[1] = it's the informal version of "welcome home" and is usually the companion of "tadaima" (I'm home)

[2] = grandmother and grandfather respectively

Author's Note: Think of Solaris' structure kind of like Midgar's from Final Fantasy VII but everything's more-or-less on one level.
Chapter 5 by Goku Girl
Life continued. Goku saw his sons off to school every morning with handmade lunches that, while not anything spectacular, were definitely made with love and greeted them happily every evening when he returned home from work. Chisa's parents had gotten a call about what had happened so she had been punished along with Goten. Neither child was overly angry about it, though, since they knew that it had been justified.

Gohan began to subtly change without his mother around and it was for the better. Before, he had been constantly corrected by Chi Chi whether he had deserved it or not and her treatment of him had left behind emotional scarring. He had started to believe that he was honestly worthless and would never do anything correctly as long as he lived. Goten, on the other hand, had pretty much ignored his mother. The teenager wished that he had the carefree attitude of his sibling, but was naturally more inclined towards brooding and worry. Slowly he began to take more risks, including speaking up in class more often and trying to connect with his peers socially. The end result of the chances he took often made him happy so he vowed to continue.

Chi Chi's departure actually affected Goku more than his sons. Of course the boys were sad and missed their mother, but Goku couldn't get the loss of her out of his mind. He had failed her. After the death of his adopted grandfather he'd wanted to have a family of his own more than anything else. He had gone the traditional route (marriage and children) but had never felt truly comfortable with that. He loved his sons, of that he had no doubt, but Chi Chi... Well, his relationship with Chi Chi hadn't been good beyond the first month or two. After the newness wore off, not a day had gone by without her nagging him about something. He had stoically taken it for years but everyone eventually reaches a point where they just can't take it anymore. Despite what many believed, being male didn't make him immune to emotional abuse. He had feelings and she had stomped all over them on a regular basis.

His distress had more to do with the fact that he'd failed her than the fact that she'd left, leaving only a short note behind. He hated to be a disappointment to anyone. If he was realistic, Chi Chi's disappointment was no one's fault but her own, but it still hurt to know that he'd inadvertently driven her away.

But he was now free. Free to live his life the way he wanted without incurring his wife's wrath. A big smile stretched across his face, one the likes of which hadn't been seen by anyone in a long, long time. It was a smile of pure joy. Goku threw the covers back on the king-sized bed and hopped to his feet. He felt like singing and so he did.



Across the hall, Gohan stirred and his face twisted with displeasure. Normally he liked his father's singing voice, but his sleep was being rudely interrupted. In the next moment he thought about how long it had been since he'd heard his father sing and realized that he couldn't remember. That, in itself, was enough for him to begin to appreciate the old Japanese popular song.

"...Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni
Shiawase wa sora no ue ni...
"[1]

Gohan got up and slid his feet into the slippers beside his bed. Across the room, Goten was still asleep, one arm flung over the edge of the bed. Gohan gently moved it back beside him before leaving the room.

He followed the sound of his father's voice to the kitchen. It was still pretty early in the morning and the lights of the colony hadn't brightened from the dim setting they were on during its inactive hours to simulate night. Goku was setting up the small electronic coffee pot. He would have set the timer the night before but he had never gotten it to work correctly.

"Ohayo[2], Tousan," Gohan said quietly so he didn't startle him. He used, for the first time in years, the informal word for father.

"Ohayo, Gohan!" His father retrieved two boxes of cereal from the cupboard -- the plain oat circles that Gohan favored and the sugary "jewels" that he and Goten preferred -- and grabbed three bowls. "Did you sleep okay?"

"Yes, until I was awakened by the sound of Ue o Muite Arukou[3]..."

Goku blushed. "Sorry 'bout that."

Gohan waved away his apology. "I enjoyed it. It's been a long time since you were in the mood to sing."

"I feel free," he admitted. "And even though that song is kinda sad, I still like it. You have to admit it fits my life right now."

"Yes, it does. But Tousan? I don't think happiness will stay away for long. Things will get better."

It was strange being comforted by his son instead of the other way around, but also kind of nice. "I hope so."

After the usual task of bodily hauling his younger brother out of bed, Gohan finished his breakfast and finished preparing for school. He and Goten hugged his father farewell and picked up Chisa before heading off to their respective schools. Goku had the day off so he decided to actually look through the box he'd shoved into a corner of the living room that fateful day one week ago. He was fairly sure that it was exactly what he'd ordered, but had no idea why it would come in such a large box.

In his spare time, Goku re-built old cars to resell. It wasn't a very lucrative business as not many people on the colony could afford to buy one once finished, but he enjoyed it and it brought in extra income. Usually he bought fixer-uppers from the salvagers that routinely stopped by the colony and exported them to customers throughout Intergal. Raquelle owned the shop he frequented for special orders and she was forever pestering him to come work for her. He didn't like the thought of it, however. He was worried that working together would eventually destroy their friendship. So he continually turned her down even though his salary would be higher and he would have better benefits. In his current job he wasn't hurting for money but neither was he really making enough to save any of it. At Raquelle's place, he would be.

Now that he was a single parent he seriously contemplated taking her up on her offer. Even though there was one less person in the household, Gohan would be graduating from high school soon and he knew that he wanted to attend college. Although his eldest was intelligent and usually earned very good grades, it wasn't wise to count on an academic scholarship to cover all of his expenses.

But these thoughts were too heavy on a "free day" so he did his best to push them from his mind.

Dragging the box out, he opened the flaps and began pulling out parts and placing them on the coffee table amongst the remote control, several magazines, some loose change, and his house keys. The current car he was working on had needed a new carburetor, a new steering column, and its fuel system had to be updated to meet modern safety regulations. This was in addition to four new tires, some body work, and leather reupholstering. He would be lucky if he made even a little profit, but bringing old autos back from the dead was one of his passions.

Everything he'd ordered was in the box, much to his satisfaction, along with a few things he hadn't. Elle had assured him that she'd checked everything out (and, indeed, the box had been opened), but it seemed that she hadn't done it well enough. Goku sighed at the thought of making the trip to return the extra items, but he needed to talk to her about the job opening anyway.

But first he just had to see what they were.

There was a small leather-bound book in the box along with a flat, rectangular metal thing he had never seen the likes of before. The book didn't have any sort of writing on its cover to tell him what it was (which, of course, made him even more curious to know). The metal rectangle, however, was more interesting even at first glance. It was about eight inches long, three inches wide, and 1/16th of an inch thick. It was surprisingly heavy, though, and was covered in embossing on one side that may or may not be trying to communicate something. He ran thick fingers across the uneven surface, tracing each and every line of the pattern. He easily lost himself for ten minutes during his tactile investigation before he realized what he was doing and set it down onto the table. Immediately his hand went back and picked it up again.

"What the hell is going on?" he asked aloud.

There was something attractive about this strange piece of steel, something that drew him irresistibly. It looked like something ancient and brand new all at once, which was an impossible thing to consider. Maybe it was the way the patterns were laid out. They reminded him a little of pictographs of ancient Egypt, but more of the spiral patterns of the Celts. However, ancient Earth history was not a subject he was particularly fluent in. He liked the way that it looked and that was that.

He wished that he could keep his hand out of contact with it but that was apparently a big no-no. It would make for some pretty awkward moments going to the bathroom, that was for sure.

Groaning softly at his own bad attempt at humor, Goku grabbed his wrist with the opposite hand and forcefully pulled it away. It was hard resisting the lure but it helped when he turned his head away from it. Determinedly, he turned his attention to the book. Who knew what would happen if he picked it up, but he wanted to know what was inside. Maybe it would have information on the metal thingie.

When his hand made contact with it he was almost disappointed when nothing happened. It was, for all intents and purposes, completely harmless. The worn leather was cool and soft to the touch, a spiderweb of tiny cracks marring its surface. He gently opened the book and immediately noted words penned in faded black ink on the first page in the language of his youth. The strokes of the kanji were broad and self-assure. "Ikiru wa shinuru... shinuru wa ikiru," he breathed. To live is to die... and to die is to live.

Feeling decidedly creeped out, Goku shut the book again and shoved it (and the metal rectangle) back into the box far beneath his auto parts. He wanted to forget they ever existed.

***
Trunks didn't want to go to school, he wanted to be tutored at home. Yet he knew that even if his father could afford it that he would disapprove so he had no choice but to attend an actual school like other kids his age. He'd learned the day he had gone with Vegeta to be registered that there were usually only two elementary schools in each sector, more if the population warranted it. Likewise there was only one middle/high school combination per sector, but two of the more populated ones had them as separate buildings. Each sector was like a small city, actually, with Solaris itself as the nation. They each had their own autonomy and variations in their laws but had to report to the Solaran Central Government that most citizens simply called the "gov".

The lavender-haired boy showered and dressed for his first day of school morosely. He grabbed his brand new backpack that was filled with his brand new school supplies and listlessly headed to the kitchen to pick at his breakfast. Vegeta rolled his eyes at his son's theatrics but declined to comment on them.

"You want me to walk you to school?" he asked.

"How old do I look like to you? Next year I'll be in middle school!" Trunks looked up from his single slice of toast and caught the quickly-hidden look of hurt on his father's face. "Hey, I'm sorry. It's just that-"

"It's okay. You're eleven, right? You're old enough to walk to school by yourself." Vegeta couldn't believe that he was hurt by Trunks' rejection. Who knew that having a kid around would turn you into a big pile of mush?

They ate in uncomfortable silence. Trunks choked down his toast, drank his juice, and headed toward the front door. Before he pulled on his shoes, he ran back to where his father was still sitting in the small kitchen and threw his arms around his neck. "I love ya, okay? Don't forget!"

His father smiled to himself. "I won't."

"Good. I'll be home 'bout three-thirty. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"I assume that means that I can do anything I want." Trunks playfully punched him in the arm for the comment and headed off to school.

S.S. No. 18 (Solaran School Number 18) was only a few blocks away from his house. It wasn't at all creatively named and neither was the other school. The secondary schools had original names while all of the elementary schools (because there were so many) were only numbered. In the elevator there were two other kids around his age that couldn't stop staring at him. He pretended not to notice during the ride but as soon as they stepped outside, one of the two brought up the reason why she'd found him so fascinating.

"You're new, huh?" the little girl asked. She was human with ordinary brown hair and brown eyes.

"Gee, you're really smart if you can figure that out," Trunks answered with a roll of his eyes. The sarcasm was completely lost on her. It wasn't lost on the boy, though.

"You don't have to be mean," he said. "She was just asking you a question."

"I don't like it when people ask stupid questions. If you haven't ever seen me before, don't you think it's obvious that I'm new?" He opened the door to the outside and stepped out into the relative brightness of the colony. The simulated sky above his head wasn't as blue as he was used to, but it wasn't half bad.

He could hear the boy behind him call him an unflattering, childish name and he rolled his eyes again.

As it turned out, those stares in the elevator were only the first of many. It seemed like everyone couldn't keep their eyes off him. There were so many amusing things he could say about that, but there was no one to say them to so he kept quiet. On the playground while everyone was waiting to be allowed into the school, he sat down on a low stone wall and quietly observed. As usual, the kids around him acted like... kids. Shouting and screaming and chasing each other all across the playground.

A teacher came over to him and tried to engage him in conversation. "You're Trunks Briefs, right? Your father enrolled you on Friday."

"Yeah." He didn't look up at her.

"Why don't you go play with the others?"

"I don't feel like running around like an idiot." He finally looked up at her. "I don't belong here."

The young woman sighed as she stared into his intelligent eyes. "Haven't you ever just wanted to be a kid? You know, be carefree."

"No one is carefree. That's only an illusion. And if they are, that only means they're too stupid to have cares." Before she could respond, the bell rang to signal the start of the school day. "May I be excused?" he asked with barely suppressed contempt.

The teacher pitied the colleague who would have him in their class. He would do nothing but analyze their every word. "Of course. Do you know which class you're in?" He gave her a look of resentment so strong that she actually took an involuntary step backward. "Um, of course you do. My mistake."

Trunks got up stiffly and entered the school with the other children. As soon as he was through the doors, he allowed a small, satisfied smirk to cross his face. He still had it.

***
He tried to think of things that were worse than reading hour and couldn't come up with anything. Even a slow and painful brain death was better in his mind.

Simply put, his fellow sixth-graders couldn't read to save their lives. They stumbled over the pronunciation of simple, two-syllable words, they ignored punctuation like it didn't exist, and God forbid if they used anything other than a monotone. He'd stopped paying attention to where they wore ten minutes ago and was currently trying not to take his freshly-sharpened pencil and shove it up the current reader's nose.

"Trunks, would you like to read next?" the teacher, a felid named Mr. Rhuka asked.

"Not particularly," he drawled, "but I don't want anyone else to read so doing it myself would be the lesser of two evils." The other kids stared at him, wondering why he was speaking like an adult, while Mr. Rhuka frowned. "Would you be so kind as to tell me what page we're on?"

"Sixty-five," the man responded from between gritted teeth. He was already mentally forming the request to have Trunks transferred out of his class.

So Trunks began to read, continuing the short story of a girl and her pony when he would rather be doing anything but. His strong voice never faltered; it was clear, loud, and every single word was enunciated perfectly. It was child's play for him, really, when he could read at college level. Never did he allow his air of superiority to fade. He thought of his classmates as stupid children not worthy of his time and wanted each and every one of them to know that.

He kept reading to the end of the story then pulled a notebook out of his backpack. At his old school, the teacher had always made them do all of the questions after reading the selection. Writing would give him something to do for ten more minutes, something to keep his mind off of his misery. Much to his horror, however, the teacher decided to have a class disscussion about the story instead. His patience at an end, Trunks quickly packed up his things and got up from his chair.

Rhuka stopped talking immediately. "Trunks, where are you going? You haven't been given permission."

"I'm going home," he informed him matter-of-factly. "I want to read a book that's more on my level. Maybe The Iliad."

The man stared at him, his almond-shaped eyes wide and shocked. "You're joking."

"Nope." He grinned at him. "I actually read it a few years ago, but it'll be nice to read it again. See ya, Mr. Rhuka." He gave a jaunty wave and then left the room.

Once out in the hallway, Trunks let out a deep sigh and ran his hand agitatedly through his hair. "What the hell am I going to do now? I don't know if he's home or not." It was also pretty bad that he was going to be suspended from school on his very first day. Well, he didn't really know for sure if he would be, but he thought that was a fairly appropriate punishment for walking out of a class.

In the end he decided to talk a walk around his new home and hope he didn't get lost. Stepping onto the sidewalk in front of the school, he paused a moment to orient himself before heading off in a direction he decided to call south. It took him towards the air lock to Aros but he wasn't going to actually go there. He didn't trust the air locks enough to use them by himself. It had nothing at all to do with the fact that he didn't know how to work them.

He received more than a few stares as he strode down the street. Kids his age were definitely supposed to be in school at ten o'clock in the morning. Trunks met every speculative look with a look of warning and the adults found themselves turning away first.

His ego had been successfully boosted that day. His new classmates and new teacher had done nothing to redeem themselves in his eyes. Every interaction he had with people was heavily flavored with condescension and disgust. He didn't trust anyone as far as he could throw them and, thanks to his Saiya-jin genetics, that was actually pretty far. Long ago his mother had destroyed his ability to trust. It wasn't that he didn't want to but he actually grew panicked whenever he started to feel himself becoming close to a person. His father was systematically tearing down his walls, however, because Trunks realized how much they were alike. He honestly believed that he could trust his father but still found it very difficult to do so.

He spent the remainder of the time before school ended for the day sitting in a small park that consisted of only a wooden bench with flaking paint and a sickly-looking tree. Plants didn't have much of a chance for survival in the artificial sunlight and weather of a colony unless they were carefully tended. So far, Solaris was nothing like Amida. Everything was so worn looking and unfriendly from the overuse of steel in construction. Not that Amida had been friendly. While the cities were in a far better state of repair, they'd had this air of sterility and unearthly perfection that didn't really garner feelings of ease and comfort. To an extent it had been like living in a museum.

Trunks loved Solaris already. He had never fit into his mother's world of dinner parties and perfection. It was his Saiya-jin blood, he figured (as had his mother and grandparents), that made him into such an "uncivilized" person. But the wildness was a part of who he was and he wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

He pulled out his brand new key and unlocked the downstairs security door before using his house key to check the mailbox. There were only a few letters in there, most of them bills. Even with the advent of high level computer technology, some people still preferred an ancient method of information delivery. He decided to take the stairs as he had a lot of excess energy to burn off and made it up to the third floor in record time. Opening the door, he toed his shoes off and dropped his backpack on top of them.

"Hi!" he called. "Are you home?"

"In the kitchen," was Vegeta's reply. "I have something to talk to you about."

Trunks frowned at his father's tone of voice, but didn't hesitate to make his way to him. "Yeah? What's up?"

His father was leaning against the counter, one eyebrow raised. "Your teacher called me. What's this about you walking out of class?"

"It sucked," he whined, tossing the mail onto the table. "I shouldn't be forced to deal with that." When Vegeta's expression didn't become sympathetic (if anything it became harder), Trunks groaned and threw himself into the nearest chair.

"Aw, I'm screwed, aren't I?"

"You sure as hell are," was his father's reply.




[1] = "Happiness lies beyond the clouds/Happiness lies up above the sky"
[2] = good morning
[3] = the title means "I Look Up As I Walk" but this song is better known to English-speakers as "Sukiyaki" (even though that's the name of a Japanese dish and has nothing at all to do with the song). For more info click here.


Author's Note: Bet you can't guess where ikiru wa shinuru, shinuru wa ikiru originally came from. I'll give you two hints... it's from one of my favorite anime series and it was spoken (repeatedly) during a period of the series that was centered around seven men.
Chapter 6 by Goku Girl
Over the course of the time he was stuck at home, Trunks came up with a plan to get himself kicked out of S.S. No. 18 for good. He thought that if his father understood just how determined he was to escape conventional schooling that he would finally give in an get him a private tutor. The only problem with his plan was trying to come up with something that would only get him expelled and not arrested.

So he borrowed a copy of the student handbook from the library his first day back at school. The librarian beamed at him when she wrote the due date on the paper in the back, probably pleased to see a student taking an interest in the rules and regulations of the school. If only she knew the real reason behind his sudden interest in school policy. It would probably turn the rest of her hair gray.

He had been transferred from Mr. Rhuka's class to Mrs. Felip's. She was a young human woman, maybe around the age of twenty-three or so, and very pretty. Trunks thought she was more suited to modeling than to teaching sixth graders, but it was probably her beauty that kept her students in line. People were always more likely to be kind to someone pleasing to the eye than to someone who wasn't.

Trunks was on his best behavior the entire first day as he had a feeling that his new teacher was going to be making a report to the principal after class was over for the day. She was constantly watching him whenever she thought he wasn't paying attention.

After returning home he sequestered himself in his new room. It was still pretty plain and not at all up to his specifications, but he'd only been using it for a week. He and his father had plans to go and purchase a can of paint, new curtains, and new bed linens on Friday. He was thinking black and silver for the color scheme but Vegeta was trying to steer him towards red.

He pulled his homework and the slim paperback handbook from his backpack and settled down to work. Half an hour passed by relatively quickly and most of it he'd spent studying the rules and imagining possible scenarios. The homework, of course, had only taken him ten minutes to complete.

When Vegeta came home, he checked on Trunks and was pleased to see him behaving for once. Not that his son was a bad kid, but he was a mischievous little wannabe adult. After informing Trunks that dinner would be ready in a little while, he went off to the kitchen to prepare his gourmet "just add meat" meal.

Trunks' mind was hardly on dinner as he sat there running scenarios in his mind. His first instinct was to play a prank on Mr. Rhuka for treating him like a little kid but didn't see how it could reasonably work since he was no longer in his class. His new teacher was always a possibility but he liked her too much to humiliate her. Then he thought of the principal. At the mandatory meeting he and his father had had with the man, he'd taken an instant dislike to him. Not only did he treat him like a kid like most of the adults around him, he also treated him like a future felon. While he loved causing mayhem, Trunks wasn't stupid enough to do something that would land him in prison. That is, he wasn't stupid enough to commit a felony and get caught afterward.

The boy was startled by the feel of water sprinkling down on him from above. "Huh? What?" He looked up at the amused face of his father and began running his fingers through his hair to get rid of the excess moisture. "What was that for?"

"You were sitting there like you were trying to grow roots so I thought I better water you so you wouldn't wither away and die."

"Very funny," the boy told him in the most sarcastic voice he could manage.

"Yeah, I thought so too." Vegeta grabbed his chin and tilted his face upward. "What's going on in that devious little mind of yours?"

Blue eyes widened with mock innocence. "Whatever do you mean, dear father?"

The two of them stared at each other, neither backing down. In the end, Vegeta released his son's face and shook his head. "You better not be planning something that's going to get you into trouble again."

"Of course not!" Trunks said in a dramatically offended tone of voice.

"Hmph." Vegeta went over to the sink and began to fill it with hot water, muttering all the while about "precocious little brats who don't have the sense God gave a rock". Trunks knew his father didn't believe in a higher power (neither did he) so it was pretty amusing to hear him say something like that.

"I'm going to my room to finish my homework."

"They actually gave you something that could occupy you for more than a few seconds?"

He thought he was on to him and his heart began to pound double-time. He frantically tried to come up with something to say that would successfully distract his father. "Okay, so I'm really going to my room so that I can jerk off. What do you expect, I'm an almost-twelve-year-old boy." He heard the tell-tale clink of a plate hitting the metal bottom of the sink as Vegeta's fingers suddenly became nerveless in his surprise. Snickering, Trunks went back to his room to scheme even further.

***
It took a few days of preparation before he could execute what he had come to call Operation Expulsion. He had decided to target Mr. Dorino, S.S. No. 18's illustrious principal. There was just something about that man that made him think he had a lot of embarrassing secrets. Because he knew that sexual secrets wouldn't be as hilarious to the other kids as they would be to him, he figured he could find something that people of all ages would find funny. Trunks decided to take his camera with him to school so that he would be able to get evidence after he followed Mr. Dorino home. It was a pricey piece of electronic equipment that could take stills as well as high quality video.

For the fourth day in a row he was a model student. His teacher was starting to adore him and the other kids constantly tried to start conversations with him. He responded to each of them with nothing but the utmost respect while internally mocking them. Finally the time came when Mr. Dorino headed straight home after school instead of staying behind. The day before he'd waited half an hour before heading home and, fortunately, his father hadn't made it there yet. Vegeta had a brand new job and refused to tell him what it was, which made him believe it was definitely something worth knowing about. On Saturday he planned to follow his father and see why he was so embarrassed by his job.

Anyway, he followed his principal, making sure to keep far enough behind him that he would be able to hide if the man happened to turn around.

He was led to a small brown apartment building that was surrounded by buildings of five stories or more. It was strange to see a building so small on Solaris but perhaps the Department of Housing Development had future plans to build upward.

There was no downstairs security door either because the colony felt that the neighborhood was safe or they were too lazy to install one. Well, he wasn't going to complain about it since it granted him entry into the building. Once inside, however, he was confronted with a problem. What if Dorino lived on an upper floor? How in the world was he going to get any "incriminating" evidence? As he couldn't hear the man's footsteps in the downstairs hall, he assumed that he'd climbed the stairs. Quickly, he followed and hoped he hadn't missed him entering his apartment.

Crouched on the stairs leading to the top floor, he watched as his principal unlocked his door and went inside, shutting it firmly and locking it behind him. Well, that avenue was out. Feeling frustrated, Trunks returned to the ground floor and exited the building.

He took a seat on the stoop as he pondered his latest problem. How could he see inside of his principal's third floor apartment without borrowing one of the city's cherry pickers or stealing someone's ladder? He got up and walked around the building while staring upward at it. There was a very narrow ledge running around it that was right below the windows, too narrow for him to use. Upon reaching the back of the building, he noted the fire escape and smiled. Of course there would be an outside emergency exit, how could he ever forget such a thing? Unfortunately the ladder was out of his reach as it had been pulled upward so that people like him couldn't use it.

Was this even the correct side of the building? He tried to visualize the building's layout and realized that Dorino's apartment was on the other side. Fortunately there was a fire escape on that one, too. Even better, the ladder was down far enough for him to reach if he climbed on top of something. Spying a metal garbage can in the alley, he quickly pushed it into place and used it as a step stool. In mere minutes he was exactly where he needed to be.

The window was in the living room and Dorino was nowhere to be found. The television was on and tuned into the news, the sound muffled through the glass. There was a small black cat curled on top of it, seemingly unaffected by the noise below.

His principal reappeared in casual clothing and sat down on the couch. The cat immediately joined him. He petted the cat while talking to it as if it were human then settled down to catch up on the latest Intergal news. Trunks yawned and rested his chin on the windowsill, utterly bored.

It wasn't until twenty minutes later that Dorino moved again. He got up from the couch and entered the small kitchen that was right beside the window. If Trunks changed his angle he had a good view of the area. Sensing that something interesting was finally going to happen, he set the camera to record and settled down to watch the show.

He pulled out a mop and then a bucket. After disappearing briefly to fill the plastic bucket with soapy water, he reentered the kitchen and then turned on the radio. As he was now closer to the window, Trunks could hear him hum to himself as he mopped the floor. Then the song changed (followed closely by Dorino's behavior). His humming transformed into singing and he began to dance with the mop around the kitchen.

Trunks covered his mouth with both hands to stifle his laughter. The man was so lonely he was waltzing with his mop. When Dorino lowered it into a dip, he completely lost it and lay helplessly on the steel floor of the fire escape, laughing hysterically. He calmed himself just in time to witness the grand finale as Dorino planted a big wet one right on the plastic mop handle. Trunks let out a loud bark of laughter by mistake and his principal's head jerked up at the sound. His eyes scanned the apartment for the source and eventually landed on the window to the fire escape.

"Fuck!" Dorino cursed loudly. "You little shit! I'm gonna kill you!"

That stopped his laughter pretty quickly. Trunks grabbed his camera and hurriedly stuffed it into his backpack and was halfway down the first ladder before Dorino had even squeezed his overweight body through the window.

Once he was safely on the ground he undid his belt, dropped his pants, and mooned his principal. "Kiss ass, old man!" Then he took off for home as fast as he could, laughing the entire way.

***
When he finally made it to the street he lived on his father was coming home from the opposite direction. There was a fierce frown on his face and he looked tired. Obviously his new job didn't agree with him. Trunks slowed his pace until he was stopped in front of the building and waited for Vegeta to meet up with him.

"Hey, how's it goin'?" he asked.

The small man gave him a hard look. "Why are you down here when you should be up there? And why do you have your backpack?"

Nothing escaped his notice. "Um, it's a funny story, actually."

"I'm waiting."

So much for hoping he would drop the subject. Trunks didn't have an explanation prepared because he'd expected to be home long before his father arrived. It was all that stupid Dances-With-Mop's fault for taking so long to humiliate himself.

Instead of offering an explanation, he asked innocently, "You never did tell me where you work now, you know."

Vegeta paled and then changed the subject. "C'mon, I bet you're hungry. I think we have some pizza in the freezer."

Trunks had enough sense to wait until his father's back was turned to grin. "Score!" he whispered.

They had a quiet dinner. Trunks was highly aware of the unconscious signs of suspicious behavior he could be sending his father and tried his best to dampen them. Vegeta, on the other hand, was almost praying that his son didn't ask any more questions about his job. After the pizza was devoured, Trunks took their plates and empty glasses to the kitchen and returned to the living room to watch more tv. His father went to sleep around eleven, warning him not to stay up to late lest he wanted to face dire consequences. Trunks raised his hand in acknowledgement of his words and then promptly decided to ignore them. One a.m. wasn't all that late and he would still be rested enough to get up for school the next day. He had his master plan to execute, after all.

He ended up falling asleep in front of the television with it turned to one of the channels he wasn't supposed to know that his father subscribed to. Fortunately he woke up when his father got up to shower or else he would have been in some deep doo-doo. Waiting until he heard the sound of the bathroom door closing, Trunks darted into his bedroom and slid beneath the covers. He ended up returning to sleep rather quickly.

Only to be awakened again ten minutes later. After a quick shower since he was running short on time, Trunks staggered into the kitchen to grab a granola bar and ended up falling asleep while leaning against the counter. Vegeta rolled his eyes at the boy and then slammed his hands onto the table mercilessly, smirking on the wall. Trunks literally jumped and spun around, his blue eyes as wide and as round as saucers. His father again took in his tired eyes and listless behavior and said, "I thought I told you to go to sleep at a decent hour."

"I-I did."

"And I thought you had more sense than to be watching porn at your age."

Trunks blushed then began to stammer even worse. "I-I-I don't have any idea w-w-what you're talking about."

"All those close-ups of pussy might have scarred you for life."

The boy stopped blushing to cock his head curiously at his father. "I'd've thought you would like close-ups of pussy."

As if realizing his mistake, Vegeta said, "Well, yeah, but not so many. Go get your shoes on and go to school before you're late. And take the train. You definitely won't make it in time by walking as slowly as you are this morning."

"Gotcha. See ya, Papa. I'm glad we had this enlightening talk about pussy close-ups."

"Go!"

"What's on tomorrow's agenda? Dick shots?"

Vegeta told him to "go" again but it was somewhat muffled by his laughter. He got himself together by the time the front door closed and was shaking his head in disbelief at his son's antics. Who would have thought an almost-twelve-year-old would be so entertaining?

Then his smile faded as he glanced at the time. He had to leave for work. He hoped to eventually get a better job, but he didn't exactly have a work history due to his off-the-record former career and his lack of a secondary education. Grabbing his house keys and his wallet, Vegeta locked up and headed off to work like a man heading off to his execution.




Trunks went over his plan again on his way to school on the inter-sector Solaran transit system. He didn't usually take the train to school as he liked walking more, but his father had been right that he would have been late if he used his usual method of transportation. The train was noisy and often crowded with school-age kids and adults heading off to work. He couldn't get a seat, and he was too short to grab the cords hanging from the ceiling to steady himself, so he clutched a thin metal pole and prayed that he wouldn't fall over and embarrass himself. In actuality he probably would have been perfectly fine not holding onto anything at all since the press of people around him would have kept him in place. All those people invading his personal space was making him shudder.

He began fighting his way to the front long before his stop or else he would have missed it. It was fortunate that he was small or he might have never been able to get off until rush hour was over. He burst forth from the train car with a look of utter relief on his face and began to sprint out of the station and to his soon-to-be-former school. The sooner he got there the sooner this could be all over.

There were only a few minutes before the morning bell and the halls were practically empty. Trunks walked with false nonchalance down to the Audio/Visual room (which was empty at that time of day). Pulling out a set of lockpicks that would definitely piss his mother off if she knew that he possessed them, the eleven-year-old picked the lock on the door and slipped inside.

The room was about the size of a broom closet. In the wall on the right there was a ordinary-looking television with ordinary-looking controls. On the right there was a console that definitely looked extraordinary. Trunks pulled out the thin case that held the micro-disc from his camera and inserted it into the drive. Then he stared at the equipment, completely at a loss as to what to do next.

In every classroom there was a projector that was hooked up to the school's A/V system. On Friday afternoons they showed a children's movie to every class, but usually the teachers used the projector to show educational films. Trunks knew that you could program the system to show a film to either a particular classroom or to the entire school. He'd only been around one Friday so far and was pretty impressed at the quality of the system. The projector had descended from the ceiling and the center panel of the white board had slid aside to reveal a screen the kind they had in movie theaters.

As it was Friday once more he could either wait until the weekly movie that afternoon or execute his plan right now. On one hand, the person who usually handled things in the A/V room knew exactly what they were doing. On the other, he had no idea how he would ensure that the disc he or she chose was the one he'd made. With that in mind, he began to play around with the system with the hope that he would be able to transmit the image to everyone at once. The screen in the wall popped on and he smiled in memory when he saw Dorino's kitchen. After one final tap on the screen, he decided that he'd done all he could and it would be wise to get his ass to class. Although his goal was to get expelled, he wasn't going to suffer the indignity of being caught red-handed. Dorino would know who'd revealed his secret to the world.

When he strolled into class several minutes late his teacher was nowhere to be found but his classmates were laughing and generally running wild. On the screen was Dorino and he smiled with satisfaction. Hopefully the video was being shown to everyone.

Just as he was taking his seat, the door slammed open and in walked Dorino himself. His face was red with rage and his fists were clenched at his sides. The class fell completely silent and more than a few kids wore terrified expressions. Trunks, though he was a little nervous, didn't allow it to show.

"May we help you?" he asked politely.

"Get over here. NOW!"

Trunks said in a cool tone, "I'm not sure I want to go anywhere with a man who looks like he's about to explode."

Mrs. Felip rushed over to get between the two of them. "Now, Mr. Dorino, you have no proof at all that Trunks was the one to do this."

"How about the fact that he's a smart-assed little brat? Or the fact that I saw him peeping in my apartment window with a video camera last night?!"

Mrs. Felip paled and glanced back at her student. The other kids stared at Trunks with varying degrees of awe. "Oh," the woman said weakly.

"You're coming with me," Dorino growled at Trunks.

"Do you promise not to murder me then bury my body on the playground?"

"Trunks!" Felip gasped.

"What? I thought it was a valid question considering the circumstances," he protested. Seeing that Dorino was about one second away from wrapping his big, thick-fingered hands around his throat, Trunks finally grabbed his backpack and did as ordered.

The walk to Dorino's office was tense, to say the least. The principal's back was ramrod straight and his hands hadn't relaxed at all. Trunks was somewhat surprised that the man still physically capable of yelling at him. He would have thought that his sky-high blood pressure would have caused him to have a heart attack by now.

"Sit!" Dorino barked. Trunks, again, did as told. The principal began to pace the small area behind his desk, the red color finally fading from his face. "Why?" he asked after a moment. "Do you really hate me this much?"

"Don't flatter yourself. You were just a means to an end." Dorino nearly flinched at his tone of voice. It was flat and completely unemotional as if he could care less about Dorino or his humiliation. He would have never thought a child so young could be so dead inside.

"I'm sure you know that I'm going to call your... father?" The principal finally sat down and keyed in the appropriate commands to bring up Trunks' personal record. "Here for less than a month and already you're going to be expelled. Mere suspension is too good for you."

"If you didn't expel me, my opinion of you would suffer for it." Trunks allowed one corner of his mouth to twitch upward in carefully calculated derision. "Well it would if my opinion of you really could get any lower." The man's redness was returning. Trunks leaned back in his chair with a feeling of intense satisfaction.

It seemed like it took mere moments for his father to arrive at the school, but it had to have been at least a half hour. Vegeta showed up and his facial expression was like a thunderstorm: dark and threatening. For a moment Trunks' stomach sank and he regretted misbehaving, but then it was gone when he remembered that he would be free of S.S. No. 18 in just a short while.

After filling on the appropriate paperwork stating that Vegeta had been informed of the principal's decision and agreed with it, he and Trunks left the building. The light outside seemed brighter than usual which reflected Trunks' current mood. For a moment, anyway. Then Vegeta was grabbing his son by the shoulder in a grip that did hurt, and was forcing him to face him.

"You are a little shit," Vegeta informed him. "I should send you back to your mother."

A stricken look settled on Trunks' face and he tried desperately not to cry. "If-if you think that's best," he said softly. He had never thought that he would push his father to the point when he would go back on his promise.

The devastated look on his son's face calmed Vegeta down a little and he realized what he'd done. He had made it his personal credo long ago to never break a promise, to never go back on his word, to never become his father. While he had no intention whatsoever to send Trunks away, he'd still implied that he would in a moment of anger and that hadn't been right. "Trunks, I'm not going to send you back. I didn't mean it. You know that people say things they don't mean when they're pissed off."

"Not Okaasan," the boy informed him with a stray sniffle. "She's always more truthful when she's mad than when she isn't."

"Well, like I said before, I'm not your mother. If I say something stupid like that again when I'm mad, just ignore me, okay? But I am angry and you are going to be punished within an inch of your life."

"Please don't bring out the hot irons and the flogger," he cried. "Please! I promise to never do it again!"

"Hot irons...? Flogger? What?"

Trunks sniggered. "Just joking with you. I am really sorry, though. What I did was stupid but I didn't want to go to that school anymore. I want to have private instruction."

"Well, it doesn't matter what you want. Right now we're going home and tomorrow I'm going to see about enrolling you in S.S. No. 19."

"What? No!"

"Do I have to talk slower for you to understand?"

"No, Papa," he grumbled. "This freakin' sucks."

"Well, life sucks so get used to it."
Chapter 7 by Goku Girl
He'd never wanted to piss his father off, but getting expelled from school did a very good job of it. Because of the nature of the prank he'd pulled, the principal of the other elementary school (S.S. No. 19) refused to accept him. The only choices he had for education now were private instruction or attending a school in another sector.

Of course Trunks had hoped his father would finally hire a tutor, but that would mean that he had gotten what he'd wanted by being a brat and there was no way in hell that Vegeta would make him happy after he'd been so evil. The eleven-year-old knew this as well as he knew that he should have just dealt with being at S.S. No. 18 until he graduated to middle school. It had only been four more months, after all. Now he was going to have to add a thirty minute walk to his daily routine and his father wasn't speaking to him.

For the entire time he had been at home Vegeta had hired a middle-aged woman named Katherine to watch him while he was at work just like he was a little kid. When he protested having a baby-sitter, Vegeta told him that he had proved he couldn't be trusted. This had hurt him deeply but he knew that no one was hurt more than his father. So he didn't say anything else about it and tried to find things to do that would make the days pass quickly.

His first day at S.S. No. 17 in the Aros sector began quietly and uneventfully. He and Vegeta had gone to the school a few days before to register him after obtaining special permission from Solaris' Department of Education. It was still dark outside and his eyes were barely open as he took a shower and dressed in his favorite t-shirt and jeans. He was desperately searching for things to make him feel better and the clothes helped a little.

Vegeta had made a real breakfast with his limited cooking skills and it sat hot and ready on the table. Eggs, bacon, and toast. Although it was simple, it put a smile on Trunks' face as he saw it as the tentative step toward reconciliation that it was meant to be.

"Ohayo," Trunks said, taking the seat nearest to the living room that had become his own.

"Ohayo," was the low reply. Vegeta's face was completely blank.

"Uh, Pa-pa," he stuttered slightly, "I'm really, really, really sorry for behaving like a spoiled brat. I promise not to get kicked out of this school." He fell silent, waiting for a reply. Vegeta said nothing.

Breakfast was over and the dishes were in the sink before Vegeta spoke again. For days he'd wondered if Trunks was really better off with him than with his mother. All signs indicated that perhaps he wasn't cut out to raise a child. "Do you want me to walk you to school?"

The boy bit his lip slightly then nodded his head. "Yeah, that'll be cool."

***
S.S. No. 17 looked a lot like his old school. He wouldn't be surprised if every Solaran public elementary school was designed by the same exact person. His father not only took him to school but he also walked him to his classroom. Trunks figured he should be extremely embarrassed that his father was all but holding his hand, but he only felt relief that he wasn't still angry at him. At that moment he mentally swore to never disappoint Vegeta again. He wanted to make him proud of him in ways that his mother had never earned.

"Well, um, be seeing you," he said, turning to walk into the classroom.

"No walking out of class. No leaving school early. Promise me."

Trunks looked over his shoulder and his stomach sank at the stern expression on his father's face. "I promise."

Vegeta allowed his residual disappointment and anger to fade and a tiny smile twitched the corners of his mouth upward. "You sure you know how to get home by yourself?"

"Uh huh." A big grin stretched across his face. "How old do I look to you? Five?"

"No, you're eleven. Almost twelve." Vegeta gave him a gentle push forward into the classroom, turned around, and walked away.

The lavender-haired boy looked around for a moment, searching for an empty desk. Most of his classmates had already entered the classroom and were chatting with each other. The teacher was nowhere to be found. He walked down the first aisle until he reached the back of the class and sat down at the last desk in the row. There was a human girl with long black hair pulled into two pigtails sitting beside him. She wore a white t-shirt with tiny flowers around the collar under a denim jumper.

The girl shook her head at him. "That's Nomi's seat. See, look inside the desk. Her stuff is in there."

"Oh," he said. "Is there an empty seat somewhere?"

"Yeah, in front of me. It used to be Jack's seat but he moved away." She was quiet for as long as it took for Trunks to move then she asked, "Is that short guy your dad?"

"Yeah."

"You don't really look like him."

"Yes I do. Our faces are the same." He was more than a little ticked off that the girl was being so blunt... that was his job.

"Where's your mom?"

Trunks turned around in his chair and glared at her. "Look, none of this is any of your business. You don't even know me."

"That's why I'm asking you questions." She gave him a "duh" look that brought a reluctant smile to his face. "What's your name? Mine's Kira."

"It's Trunks." He waited for her to say something stupid about his name.

"That's cool," she told him. "Where'd you move from, Trunks?"

They talked until the teacher entered the classroom then proceeded to ignore the woman and talk some more. When they were caught and reprimanded, they began to pass notes back and forth. More than a few times Trunks caught the kids around them giving him strange looks as if it was weird of him to voluntarily talk to the girl behind him and he didn't know whether it was because she was female (and eleven-year-old boys generally avoided girls like they carried the plague) or because she was Kira. Something in their faces made him think that it was a little of both.

When lunchtime came he lined up with his classmates and they went to the cafeteria. Each class had two tables all to themselves (officially, at least), but he found that everyone sat where they wanted to. He and Kira took their lunches and sat at the end of a table mostly populated by eight- and nine-year-olds who looked nervous about having older kids sit near them.

Trunks pulled out the ham and cheese sandwich he'd made himself along with a plastic baggie of potato chips. For dessert he had another baggie full of store-bought chocolate chip cookies. Kira was eyeing his food longingly as she removed a plastic container and a baggie of celery.

"My mom's a health food nut," she explained as she pulled off the plastic lid of the container to reveal a green salad. "And a vegetarian. The only time I get to eat meat is when I sneak some money and buy my lunch."

He really felt sorry for her. "I'll give you half my sandwich if you give me half your salad."

"Really?" she asked. "You don't even know me. No one's ever wanted to share with me 'cause they say I'm contagious."

"Contagious? What are you supposed to have?" He handed her half his sandwich and she reciprocated by using her fork to share her own lunch. Trunks briefly got up to go fetch a set of plastic silverware and Kira began to explain once he returned.

"I have cooties," she said with a grin. When Trunks rolled his eyes, she said, "I know, I know. They don't know what they're talking about. Didn't cooties pass with the third grade?"

"Fuck them," he told her and she gasped a little at his language. "There's nothing wrong with you. They probably don't understand that there's nothing wrong with being different."

Kira nodded in agreement. "That's what my mom says."

They ate in silence for a little while until two other kids took seats noisily near them after exiting the lunch line. Trunks looked up and started to glare at the person now sitting beside him and felt the breath leave his body in a big whoosh. The boy was small and dark haired with impish features and was wearing an oversized t-shirt that almost swallowed him whole and a pair of worn jeans with holes in the knees.

"Sorry," he said as he made himself comfortable. "Didn't mean to bump you."

"That's okay," Trunks said, his voice cracking. He couldn't take his eyes off of the other boy. Kira noticed and smirked to herself, deciding not to comment at the moment.

Before they returned to class, Trunks took Kira aside and began to interrogate her about the boy who'd captured so much of his attention. "What's his name? How old is he? What grade is he in?"

"Son Goten. Ten. Fifth grade." She said this succinctly as if she was being interrogated... which, in a way, she was. Then she volunteered more information. "He's in Mr. Hauper's class right across the hall." Trunks' head immediately turned to the open classroom door and he peeked inside with the hope of catching a glimpse of him. "You want to be his friend really bad, huh? Or do you want to be something more?" She gave him a secret smile then shoved him into the classroom. "Talk to him!"

The next thing he knew he was standing in front of Hauper's fifth grade class with nearly twenty pairs of eyes on him. Fortunately the teacher hadn't returned to the classroom yet. "Uh, hi," he said nervously.

"Talk to him!" Kira hissed from the hallway.

Not having any other solution to the embarrassing situation he was in other than to flee, he strolled to Goten's seat as casually as he could. "Hi," he said, stopping beside him.

"Hi!" Goten replied, smiling up at him. "I'm Goten. What's your name?"

"Trunks. Um, my friend Kira told me who you were." He fidgeted for a few moments before speaking again. "Are you doing anything after school? We could, you know, hang out or something." His brain began screaming at him that it sounded like he was asking Goten out on a date. Not that going out on a date with him would be a bad thing, but they were kids for pete's sake!

"You want to hang out with me?" Goten definitely looked surprised. "But you're a sixth grader."

"So? I like you." As soon as the words left his mouth he wanted to cringe, but Goten wasn't offended by them. If anything, his smile grew even wider.

"Okay! We can go over to my house and play! Can my friend Chisa come too? She stays over at my house until her parents get home." He motioned towards the quiet felid girl sitting beside him.

"Okay, sure." He was disappointed that they would have company and hoped it didn't show. "I'll met you outside after school."

"Great! See you then!"

Trunks gave a little awkward wave and walked away. Behind him he could hear Goten's voice saying something quietly to Chisa, who giggled in response. Once he was back out in the hall, Kira grabbed him and immediately pumped him for information. "Well?"

"We're going to hang out after school," he said with a dopey look on his face.

She squealed with excitement. "It's so cool you found a boyfriend on your first day of school!"

"Huh?" Trunks blinked the fog surrounding his brain away. "What? Boyfriend? He's not my boyfriend. I don't like boys like that." Kira gave him a look to indicate that he wasn't fooling anyone, least of all her. "Okay, so I like boys like that. You know most adults would say that I'm too young to know what I want."

"When a boy likes a girl or vice-versa they never say that. They just think it's cute. Anyone who thinks differently just because you're two boys is an idiot. C'mon," she said abruptly, "we have to get to class before we're late."

"Uh, yeah. Right." But as Kira tugged him down the hall, he couldn't keep his eyes off the now-closed door of Goten's classroom. Boyfriend? If only. He didn't even know if Goten would be amenable to a relationship deeper than friendship.

But he could definitely hope.

***
He never told Raquelle about what else he'd found in the box. Instead, he'd pushed it to the back of his mind while they hammered out the details of him working for her. He really hoped that she hadn't put the book and the metal slab in there for some nefarious purpose.

Even though he mentally scolded himself for giving into the pull, he couldn't help but to reach out to touch the etched surface of the metal again. The more his fingers came into contact with it, the louder something whispered to him. The first few times he hadn't heard a thing, but then something like white noise began to fill his mind. After a while he thought he could hear individual voices but still could not quite make out entire words.

Goku thought he should be alarmed, but curiosity overrode that. His grandfather had said many times when he was a child that he had more curiosity than common sense and those times had always been when he was recovering from an investigation gone wrong. He personally didn't think his curiosity was a bad thing as it gave him the passion to be a mechanic since he loved taking things apart to see how they worked. Putting them back together was fun as well since it was always a challenge to make improvements.

He wanted to put back together what the steel piece belonged to (after he'd studied it extensively, of course). There was nothing about it that indicated that it was a part of something larger, but he had a feeling that it was. Goku imagined for a moment an ancient temple wall covered completely in strange embossing but then the thought occurred to him that ancient temples weren't normally made of steel. Whatever it belonged to was far newer than the long ago time before electricity and plumbing.

Finally convincing his body to leave the steel slab alone, he picked up the book and studied it more closely than he had before. There on the spine, in faded black lettering, were the words Anei no Hon. His mind automatically converted the title from Japanese to the more common Standard. He was apparently holding in his hand the Book of Shadows. That name, combined with the words printed on the first page, made him shiver.

If the book spoke of the steel slab he would be a fool not to look through it. But what if there were truths he would rather remain ignorant about in those vellum pages? He was only a simple mechanic, nothing more. He had little power and little money and also little desire to change the world. He just took life one day at a time like everyone else.

Goku laughed at himself softly as he thought about the likelihood of the Book of Shadows containing the key to universal prosperity and peace. Not only did the title have nothing at all to do with either topic, but he seriously doubted that such a thing even existed. It was up to people to create a haven for themselves. If only they would stop fighting with each other over petty disputes and realize this.

Finally coming to the conclusion that he was being silly, Goku opened the book once more and flipped through its pages. The information he found there was far beyond his expectations.

It was almost unbelievable. If not for the fact that he had one of the relics it spoke of sitting on the coffee table in front of him he would have discounted it as nothing more than fiction. There was a hand drawn map in the Anei no Hon as well as detailed information about where the relic had been found. It had siblings, apparently, but the author had only a vague idea as to their usage.

It would be interesting to go in search of the other Pre-Amida relics, but he didn't have the time or the money to do so. Sighing with disappointment, he put the book and the relic back into the box and pushed it to the back of his closet where he, hopefully, would forget all about them. Figuring that he might as well do something productive, he gathered up his automotive parts and headed off to the shed behind his apartment building that the landlord was allowing him to use as a workshop for a nominal fee. It was the first time he'd been able to work on his latest project that entire week. Soon Goku was up to his elbows in grease and, quite happily, shoved the book and the relic into the far reaches of his mind.
Chapter 8 by Goku Girl
Trunks was sure that he looked like an idiot for the rest of the day as he couldn't stop smiling. Kira informed him in her usual blunt way around two-thirty (during the time they were supposed to be working on an independent assignment) that his face was never going to return to its usual shape as the muscles would be too stretched out from overuse. He was tempted to flip her off, but since he didn't want to make his new friend mad he stuck his tongue out at her instead. Kira had no qualms about showing him her finger, however, and the gesture caused him to grin.

"Gimme your comm number," she said suddenly.

"What?" he asked once his mind had processed her demand.

"Gimme your comm number. I'm going to call you later tonight so that I can interrogate you about your date."

He could only imagine what his father would have to say if he happened to be the one to answer the communicator. "How about I call you instead?" That way he could be absolutely sure that Vegeta wasn't listening in to their conversation. He didn't know how his father would react to finding out that his son had a crush on another boy but he bet that he wouldn't just accept it.

"You don't want your dad to find out," Kira said knowingly. "Okay, I'll write it down for you. Do you want to do a sound only call, then?"

"That'll be great," he said, relieved. He could just use the headset to prevent his father from hearing Kira's side of the conversation if he did happen to eavesdrop.

"Trunks, Kira," the teacher, Miss Jaines, warned sternly.

"Sorry," the both apologized in unison... for the third time that day.

After school, Trunks met up with Goten and Chisa by their classroom. Goten explained to him that he had to wait for his older brother to show up, which would take a little while since the high school didn't let out until three-thirty. Chisa, as per the plan she and Goten had come up with earlier, went off to the swing set and gave the two boys time alone.

"I've never seen you around before," Goten said once his friend was far enough away.

"I just moved here."

"Oh. Where do you live? I live on Peachtree St."

"I don't live in Aros, I live in Hedin. Before that I lived on Amida with my mother."

"You live in Hedin? You're going to take the train to school from there every single day?" Goten's face looked like he didn't really believe the older boy. He could understand attending school in another sector if he would be driven, but hardly anyone had vehicles save for the government. There were so many regulations and fees attached to owning and operating one that usually only the rich bothered.

"Not the train. I'm going to walk. My papa and I live on the Aros side of Hedin. It only takes me half an hour." Trunks could plainly see Goten's admiration of him and it made him feel pretty good. He would definitely not ever tell him that the only reason he was attending a school in another sector was because there wasn't one in Hedin that would take him.

They chatted for the entire time it took Gohan to walk to S.S. No. 17 and not once did Chisa return. When Goten's big brother showed up, he stopped a moment in surprise and took in the lavender-haired boy talking to his younger brother. He saw how close they were sitting, practically in each other's laps. Gohan frowned at the latest development in his family and hoped that Goten was only going through a phase.

"Niichan!" Goten called. He stood up quickly, but not because he was embarrassed by his closeness to Trunks. Instead, it was from excitement. "This is my new friend, Trunks. Trunks, this is my oniichan, Gohan."

"Hey," Trunks said in what he hoped was a casual manner. He had realized that Gohan didn't like him being so close to his brother. If he did something to upset Gohan, the odds that he would be able to see Goten again were going to become slim.

"Your accent tells me that you're not from around here and Goten's never mentioned you before. Where are you from?"

"Amida."

If it were possible, Gohan began to frown even more. It was common knowledge that only rich people could afford to have permanent residences on Amida. Why in the world would Trunks' family leave paradise for Solaris?

Trunks winced at the teen's expression and quickly explained further. "I moved in with my father."

Before Gohan could question him further, Goten complained loudly about being bored. Gohan dropped the subject in favor of going home but Trunks had a feeling he would be bringing it up again later.

***
Goku gave his two weeks notice and his supervisor was truly sorry to see him go. Goku was a hard worker who did his job with few complaints. Someone else sad to see him leave was Feril. Since the day they had lunch together (and he had discovered that Goku was, technically, single again), he had been hanging around him, his interest painfully clear. Things were quickly getting to the point that he was going to have to tell Feril in no uncertain terms that he wasn't interested. The man was obviously not getting the non-verbal hints he constantly dropped.

They went out to lunch again. Feril claimed it was a small "farewell lunch" but Goku knew that it was a last-ditch effort to woo him. Since he felt that their paths would seldom cross again after he changed jobs (if ever), Goku was willing to put up with any untoward advances. What pushed him over the edge was when Feril followed him into the restroom after their meal was over.

He stepped up to a urinal and his co-worker chose one of the low ones designed for the smaller races that was right beside him just so that he could glance surreptitiously at his penis while he urinated. Goku tried to ignore him, but it was pretty much a lost cause when Feril starting growing hard and his hand began to massage his member. He couldn't help but the notice that the skin on his penis was the same pale green shade as the skin on the palms of his hands.

"Excuse me, but why are you watching me pee?" Goku tried to ask nonchalantly but he couldn't quite keep the irritation from showing in his voice. He shook off the last few drops and tucked himself back into his pants. He waited until he was washing his hands to confront his co-worker.

"I couldn't help myself," Feril admitted. "You're really handsome."

"Thank you, but that doesn't give you the right to peep at me while I use the bathroom."

Feril sighed. "I know you aren't interested in me but I don't know why. Is it something that I can change?"

"Well, the fact that you're coming on so strong isn't really attractive, but it's mainly because I'm not physically attracted to you. I also just got out of a relationship and I'm not looking for another one so soon."

"I guess I can understand that. When I broke up with my first boyfriend I was out of it for months. As for not being physically attracted to me... There's nothing I can really do about that." As he did look like he was going to accept the way things were, Goku relaxed a little. "Can we still be friends? You can never have too many of those."

"Sure. As long as you promise to remember that we'll never be anything more."

Feril held up his hand, the thumb folded inward toward his palm. "I will. Ghazi honor."

Now that the pressure was off, Goku was feeling a lot better. He had a feeling that Feril wouldn't be chasing after him again. It came from the same place the feeling that warned him not to marry Chi Chi had. Since it had been right before he figured that he should really start listening to it.

"Are you doing anything after work?" Goku asked.

"No, not today. Why?"

"Why don't you come to my place for dinner? If we're really going to be friends you should probably meet my sons." He had already seen pictures of them but they paled in comparison to the real thing in Goku's opinion.

Looking nervous, Feril asked, "Are you sure?"

"Yep, positive. You'll love Goten right away. Gohan takes a little getting used to sometimes. You can be their 'ojiichan'. Their uncle," Goku translated. Instead of making Feril feel accepted it merely served to make him look even more nervous.

"What if they don't like me?" His whiskers twitched spasmodically. "What if I make a fool out of myself?"

"You won't."

"How can you be so sure?!"

"Feril!" Goku gripped him by the shoulders and shook him a little to calm his rising hysteria. "Meeting my kids won't be like meeting the head of the gov, okay? They're just like you and me, only younger."

Feril nodded rapidly and tried to ignore the way Goku's hands felt on his body even through his shirt. His cock couldn't ignore it, though. "It's just that I've never really been around kids before. I'm an only child, you see, and I don't live close to any of my cousins that have kids. They look up to you, don't they? That's a lot of pressure."

"It will be fine." Goku said this in a way that meant the subject was closed. "Wash your hands so we can get back to work. Mr. Lawson brought in another one of his classics earlier today, remember? You know how much you love working on them."

"Yeah..." he answered in a dreamy tone. "They don't make cars like that anymore."

Knowing that he was successfully distracted, Goku smiled and led the way out of the restroom.

***
Trunks tried desperately to enjoy the video game he was playing with Goten but could feel Gohan watching him. The very first thing he'd done after they'd entered the apartment was sit down on the couch and pull out his homework. When Goten questioned him about doing his work in the living room, the teen had muttered something about wanting a change of scenery. Goten had been fooled by his explanation but Trunks hadn't.

From behind he could hear Chisa ask Gohan if he could get some snacks for them before offering her assistance. The girl caught Trunks' eye when he glanced back at her and gave a little nod. He waited until they had left the room to bring up his concerns about Gohan's behavior with Goten.

"I don't think your brother likes me," he admitted to him.

"What? Are you sure? Gohan likes everybody."

"Everybody but me." Trunks set down his controller and rested his head on his hands (which were, in turn, braced on his thighs). "Ever since he met me he's been frowning at me. I don't think he wants me to be your friend."

While Goten didn't want to believe his brother would dislike someone practically on sight, he also didn't want to make Trunks mad by saying he didn't believe him. "He can't tell me who I can be friends with. He's not my tousan."

Trunks was unfamiliar with the term "tousan" but he could figure out what it meant from the context. "But he's your big brother. I don't have any experience when it comes to older siblings but I think they're supposed to look out for you."

"But you haven't done anything wrong!"

"Sometimes people don't like someone even if they haven't done anything to earn it." He could see that Goten didn't quite understand so he dropped the discussion. "Let's keep playing," he suggested.

"Okay!"

Trunks left for home soon after Chisa did. Without her to distract Gohan the teen wouldn't leave him and Goten alone. One good thing had come out of being constantly harassed, though. Goten was starting to see his point when it came to his brother. He hoped that his new friend would talk to Gohan and get him to leave him alone.

He had forgotten to call his father to tell him where he would be but he figured he wouldn't be too worried. Hopefully he wouldn't assume the worst and think he was off video taping another unfortunate principal. If he would just bother to look he would find his camera on the bookshelf in his room, but Trunks didn't think his father would think to look if he became too angry.

Just as he raised his hand to push the button to open the door to the air lock, the door opened and a familiar form stepped out. "Hi, Papa," he said sheepishly.

"Hi, Trunks. I was just looking for you. Would you like to tell me why you're so late?" His tone of voice said that his request was more of an order.

"It's not what you think. I wasn't off tormenting people again, I was over at Goten's house."

"Who's Goten?"

"I met him at school today. He's in the class across the hall."

Vegeta wasn't sure whether or not to believe him but eventually decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. "I don't care if you go hang out with friends after school, but next time tell me first, okay?" He knew that the worry he still felt was leaking out into his voice and hated it.

"Sorry. It was sort of a spur-of-the-moment thing, though. But I guess I could have called you from his house and left a message..."

Sighing, Vegeta turned around and re-entered the airlock with Trunks trailing behind. "It's interesting how you always have good ideas after you need them. Guess you're like me in that respect."

"I'm like you in a lot of respects." Trunks smiled slightly at the thought. "Papa, I'm glad I came to live with you."

His father didn't say anything for a long while. The air lock door that led to Hedin was opening before he finally responded to what Trunks had said. "I'm glad, too."



Author's Note: Comm is short for "communicator". It's an evolved form of the telephone that also lets you see who you're talking to. It can also access special content to speed up tasks (for example: when ordering take-out you would get a graphical menu instead of a person).
Chapter 9 by Goku Girl
As the weeks went by, Trunks and Goten became very good friends. In fact, the two boys along with Chisa and Kira became an inseparable foursome. The other kids didn't understand the reasons behind their friendship as they could only see how different they were from each other on the surface, but as a result of it they did start leaving Kira alone. The twelve-year-old girl joked constantly about her three "bodyguards" to which they responded with copious amounts of muscle flexing and fake threats toward any other kid who happened to get too close.

In just a few months the school year would be coming to a close. Trunks and Kira would be heading off to middle school with the rest of the big kids and the younger members of the group were worried that they would forget all about them. Neither voiced their concerns, however. They hoped that their friendship would remain basically the same but there was a very high chance that it wouldn't.

Every Saturday they met up at either Goten's or Kira's apartments. Trunks, for obvious reasons, couldn't host their get-togethers and Chisa's parents were hardly ever home. From there they would go to the park or just go on expeditions thought up by the ever-adventurous Trunks. After they'd tired themselves out, they would head over to whosever home was the closest. Sometimes they were so far away from their base of operations that it happened to be Trunks'. In that case they would always end up spending the night together in the living room. None of the parents were too worried about them doing that as they were only grade school kids and they were all familiar with each other from speaking over the comm. They had yet to meet up together in person but that was soon to change.

About a month before school ended there was an open house so that parents could come up to the school to discuss their children with their teachers and the kids could show off their accomplishments. Goten was extremely excited about the entire thing. His class had recently done a special project on the known universe and he had gotten assigned to the group that covered the solar system that his father had originally come from. He thought that the picture he and the other two kids had drawn had turned out really good. The other three were less enthused about the entire thing but for varying reasons. Chisa didn't think her parents would be able to make it, Kira was afraid that her mother was going to embarrass her, and Trunks was afraid of what his teacher would say to his father about his behavior. Goten didn't allow their moods to dampen his own, however, and by the time the day of the open house arrived he was so bouncy that his father made a comment about having to scrape him off the ceiling.

Goten, Goku, and Gohan stopped off across the hall to pick up Chisa from the baby-sitter and headed off to S.S. No. 19. The little girl was quiet for the entire duration of the journey and nothing Goten did or said could change that. Her mother had promised at breakfast to try and get off work early that day but Chisa had little hope that she would be able to. Her father, on the other hand, hadn't made any such promise.

When they reached the school they merged into the groups of other people passing through the open double doors. There was a banner strung up above the entrance that said "Welcome Parents!" It only served to reinforce to Chisa that her parents weren't with her and tears began to trickle down her cheeks. She was so quiet that Goten didn't notice that she was crying until he turned to say something to her. "Tousan," he said quietly while tugging on his father's shirt.

"Hmm?" he asked without looking. It was difficult to see where he was supposed to register with so many people around.

"Chisa's crying."

That definitely got his attention.

Crouching down before her, he asked gently, "Chisa, sweetie, what's wrong?"

"I-it's okay, Mr. Goku. Don't worry about me."

"I want to worry. Is it your parents?" A stifled sob was her only response. "I'm sure if they could be here that they would."

"I know." Bravely she smiled at him and rubbed her eyes. "My mom, at least."

"Chisa!" a voice from behind called. Her face lighting up at the sound, Chisa spun around to face her mother. Reina Lang was a pretty felid who her daughter resembled completely. In addition to sharing the same blue eyes they also both had chestnut brown fur with chocolate brown stripes on their ears and tail. "I'm so sorry that I'm late. My boss constantly found things for me to do at the last moment."

"That's okay, you're here now!" She looked around hopefully. "Where's Dad?"

"Um..." Reina bit her lip. "He's still at work, honey. There's a very big project due and-"

"It's okay," she interrupted, not wanting to hear any more excuses. "It's better with just you here, anyway. Dad would be upset that I didn't get perfect grades again."

"You did your best, right? That's all that matters." Mother and daughter smiled at each other, all temporarily right in their worlds.

The adults began to chat about standard adult topics such as the weather and the economy. Gohan tentatively joined them. Goten and Chisa grew bored after thirty seconds and ran off to find Trunks and Kira after informing their parents where they would be.

"I can't wait for Tousan to meet him," Goten said as they skipped down the hall, dodging people left and right.

"Why? Is it 'cause you liiiike him." Chisa grinned at him when his cheeks darkened a little with embarrassment.

"Of course I like him. He's my friend."

"Well, Kira's my friend, too, and I don't look at her the way you look at Trunks. Your eyes get all unfocused and you almost always smile."

Goten slowly came to a stop. "Chisa? What do you think Tousan would say?"

"He's nice. He won't be mad."

"You sure?" he asked hopefully. "Gohan still doesn't like Trunks. Last week he even started talking to me about how I'll like girls someday and want to marry one."

The little girl laughed. "Really? You never look at girls like you look at Trunks."

"That's 'cause I don't like girls like that. Gohan calls that bein' 'gay' and he didn't make it sound like a good thing."

"I don't know why he said that because he's gay, too."

Goten stared at her. "What?!"

"It's true. I've seen him look at boys the way you look at Trunks. Never at girls."

"Then why doesn't he like it? It's not like he can change. I know I can't 'cause I tried. Girls are cute but that's it. You're cute. Kira's cute."

Chisa looked away from him, pleased and embarrassed all at once. "Some people think it's bad, that's why. Even though there's a lot of people who like people who're the same gender as them. I think that's stupid. If you like them, you like them. Why would you change that?"

"I'm not going to try anymore. I know Trunks likes me, too. He even kissed me once."

Gasping, Chisa hit him on the arm. "You never told me that!"

"It was just yesterday and then I got so excited about today that I forgot."

"You don't forget something like that. Where did he kiss you?"

"On my cheek."

She was a little disappointed. "I thought he kissed you on the lips."

Goten's cheeks heated up. "I wished that he did."

"Hey, why are you two just standing there?" a familiar voice called. Trunks walked up to them with a grin on his face. Vegeta was right behind him. "Is there something interesting over there that I should see?"

Chisa joined Goten in blushing and they both began to babble something inane about fairies. Trunks rolled his eyes at them, trying not to laugh. Vegeta, on the other hand, couldn't stop staring at Goten. The kid didn't have a tail but he just knew that he was Saiya-jin. His tail had probably been removed much in the same way as Trunks': by a doctor holding a laser scalpel.

"Aren't you going to introduce me to your friends?" Vegeta asked his son.

"Oh yeah. Goten, Chisa, this is my papa, Vegeta. Papa, these are two of my friends."

"You look just like him," Goten observed aloud. "You kinda look like my Tousan, too. Doesn't he, Chisa?"

She nodded. "You're right, he does. Are you related to Mr. Vegeta and Trunks?"

"I hope not," Trunks said quickly. He was thinking about how weird their future relationship would be if Goten was family. Seeing that his words had made Goten sad, he was quick to fix things. "I didn't mean that in a bad way."

Frowning at him, his friend asked, "How did you mean it, then?"

Since his father was standing so close, Trunks moved away from him and leaned in close to Goten so that he could whisper in his ear. "We're sorta boyfriends, aren't we? If we were family that would be strange."

"Oh!" he exclaimed. Then he grinned and said more quietly, "Boyfriends? Really?"

"Yeah. Really." He was startled by Goten grabbing him in a hug.

"That's cool!"

Chisa smiled at them but Vegeta wasn't nearly as happy. He narrowed his eyes in speculation, the weeks of Trunks going on about "Goten this" and "Goten that" suddenly making sense. It was almost too unreal to be true and he figured that Trunks was just going through a phase as he was only twelve. If he would stop to think about it more carefully he would realize that Trunks' mind didn't work in the usual way of kids his age and he would know that his son was serious about his feelings for Goten.

The kids led the way back to where they'd left Goku, Reina, and Gohan. They had been joined by a Kira and a strange-looking woman that just had to be her mother. She wore a long flowing dress the same color as grass and a big floppy straw hat with a wide green ribbon on her head. Around her neck were about half a dozen long strands of faux pearls. Her make-up consisted of emerald green eyeshadow and lipstick. Kira looked incredibly embarrassed to even be standing near her.

"That's my other friend, Kira," Trunks informed his father.

"I recognize her from the comm," he said dryly. Kira called at least three times a week. He had figured a while ago that she had a crush on his son (and was struck once more by how quickly he was growing up), but as he observed her he saw that she didn't treat Trunks any differently from how she treated the other two. Maybe she just liked to call people.

"You must be Trunks' dad!" Kira's mother said loudly. She rushed over and grabbed the small man in a giant hug. Over her right shoulder the kids and the other two parents could see his eyes open wide with surprise. All of them had to stifle laughter. "Kira talks so much about your son. Well, she talks a lot about all of them, really." She finally released him and stepped back.

"That's... nice," he managed to say without coughing. Her perfume could fell an elephant at twenty paces.

"I was just mentioning to Goku and Reina that we should have a little get-together soon. Maybe one to celebrate the end of the school year."

"That would be nice," he said lamely. He was still recovering from his close encounter with the woman's exuberance. As soon as she stepped away to greet a parent that she knew, he let out a sigh of relief.

Trunks ambled up to him. "I warned you, Papa. When I first met Giselle I thought that she and Kira were playing a joke on me. Unfortunately, she acts like that for real."

"Yeah, your description of her was a little too much. I thought you were just trying to scare me."

"I don't have to. She's scary enough on her own."

Kira's cheeks were dark red. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Vegeta." She said this in an exasperated way that indicated that she'd had to apologize for her mother's behavior a lot in the past.

He waved the apology away. "You don't have any control over her." Kira nodded but her facial expression told him that she really wished that she did.

They all split up in the end: the parents in one group and the kids (with Gohan as their baby-sitter) in the other. Goten mentioned something about there being things for them to do in the gym while their parents talked to their teachers. After promising that they wouldn't go anywhere else without permission, the kids took off.

Vegeta found himself incredibly interested in Goku. Like with Goten, he could tell on sight that he had Saiya-jin blood, but he couldn't tell how much. Goku didn't have a tail either but, then again, neither did he. A while ago he'd gotten into a fight he almost hadn't been able to win and it had gotten ripped right off. Unfortunately, once a Saiya-jin entered puberty there was no chance in hell of his or her tail ever growing back.

He searched for a topic of conversation to bring up with the other man and could only come up with one: the friendship between their sons. If he was honest with himself he would call it the "budding romance." Vegeta didn't like the fact that Trunks was getting so close to another boy. It would only spell disaster in the end and he didn't want him to get hurt. He had already been hurt enough to last a lifetime.

While he could bring it up right now he figured that it wasn't yet the right time. It would be better to wait and call on the comm or even go over to Aros and have the discussion in person. As long as there wasn't anyone else around.

"Vegeta, you're miles away," Goku said with a smile on his face. "This is the last place you want to be, isn't it?"

Opening his mouth to respond, Vegeta was suddenly struck by the beauty of Goku's eyes. They were such a dark brown color they were nearly black but he could see varying shades of brown in the irises. He lost several seconds just staring at him, completely unaware that Goku was doing the exact same thing. Slowly the noise of the people around them returned and his mind was startled back into the here-and-now.

"Uh, Trunks always gets good grades and he tries to keep his misbehavior down to a minimum," he said in a slightly dazed voice.

"What?" asked Goku.

They looked at each other, blushing a little. Then they both made a point of looking away.
Chapter 10 by Goku Girl
The "little get-together" that Giselle had proposed at the school open house a month ago actually came to fruition. This was, most likely, due to the dog-like tenacity of Giselle herself. Against his will Vegeta found himself walking alongside Trunks as they headed over to the Aros sector one relatively bright Saturday morning. He was carrying a store-bought chocolate cake, as per Trunks' suggestion that they bring something. Since it would take them a while to get there, his son had decided that dessert would be best.

It had been a month since he'd seen Goku last, not that he was going out of his way to avoid him or anything. Their paths just didn't cross, which was perfectly understandable since they lived in different sectors. He found himself thinking about the other man at the oddest moments and told himself that it was only because he was another adult Saiya-jin. He had seen few Saiya-jin since he left his home planet and fewer still that had actually wanted to talk to him. Those he had run across had all been transplants from Planet Vegeta and had known that he was the runaway prince. Most were too afraid to say something to him lest they make a faux pas and he killed them for disrespect. Others disapproved of his actions and it was evident in their facial expressions when they looked at him. In the opinion of most of his former people he should have been unwaveringly obedient and allowed his father to do whatever he wanted to him and to his life.

On Vegeta life had been less than pleasant, and not just for him. Their planet had little in the way of natural resources so they had to practically sell their souls to obtain the materials they needed to survive and reasonably prosper. A generation earlier his grandfather had sold what had remained of Saiya-jin dignity to a Changeling named Furiza in exchange for goods. They became ruthless pirates, stealing things that didn't belong to them and killing anyone who got in the way (which Furiza said was their right as a warrior race). An entire generation grew up being spoon-fed the Changeling's rhetoric and more than a few Saiya-jin had become mindless psychopaths who thrived on death and destruction.

But not him. He had done his best to escape from that, to escape what his father had deemed his fate. For that he was considered a traitor and to return to Vegeta would be a death sentence. No one he'd met after he left knew of these things. Vegeta was a very private person, after all, and he had never gotten close enough to anyone. He hoped that Trunks would never ask him about his past but knew that the odds were high that he would one day. He could only try to delay the inevitable as long as he could so that there would be more opportunity for time to further dull his pain.

"What are you thinking about?" Trunks asked as he pushed the button to open the air lock.

Vegeta came back to the present with a start. "Nothing."

"Doesn't look like nothing."

"Well, then, nothing I'm willing to share. You don't need to be burdened with my problems."

Of course Trunks had noticed that his father seemed a little... off at times, but never had it been that bad. It had all started at the open house and, at first, Trunks had thought that his preoccupation had something to do with his academic performance. But when he was finally able to view his grade report over the 'Net, he had discovered that he'd received perfect scores in every subject just as he had expected. So there was something else bothering him, but what?

At the sound of the chime, the hydraulic system powering the doors hissed open and they were allowed entrance into the Aros sector. Trunks dashed ahead excitedly, hurrying his father along with over-the-top hand gestures. Vegeta ignored him and continued to walk at his own pace.

"Look, if you want to run ahead, I don't care."

"Really? I can?" Trunks froze with anticipation.

"Yes. You're driving me nuts, anyway."

"Thanks, Papa!" He dashed down the narrow street. Right before he was out of sight, he turned around and shouted, "Hope you make it sometime this century, old man!"

If Vegeta had had his hands free, he would have flipped him off. Instead he settled for sticking out his tongue in a childish fashion. Trunks laughed and then kept going.

He wasn't looking forward to seeing Goku again. After that strange moment they'd shared a month ago, he had no idea what to expect from him. Would he bring it up with the hope that Vegeta could explain to him what had happened? If so he would be shit out of luck since Vegeta was equally as clueless. Never before had that happened with anyone, male or female.

Buruma, that bitch, had been a diversion, nothing more. He'd had sex with her under the impression that human females couldn't become pregnant by Saiya-jin sperm. He'd known that their genetic make-up was similar to his own but also knew that they were two completely separate races. It shouldn't have been possible, but life rarely behaved the way you expected it to.

So then, eight months later, he had a son. Of course he hadn't been told about Trunks until he was nearly a year old. Buruma's reason? She had been "too busy" to track him down. Apparently it had been simply too strenuous to use the comm number he'd given her until after his son was walking.

He wanted to label having anything to do with Buruma Briefs as a mistake of epic proportions, but then he'd gotten Trunks out of the deal and he would never consider him to be a mistake. He preferred not to think about her, really, and he had a feeling that Trunks did as well. The part of their lives that involved her was now over and they were free to recover from it.

Coming up ahead was the park the parents agreed to meet at. It was Giselle who'd made all the arrangements, including the date and the location. The park was actually only a few blocks from the building where Goten and Chisa lived and, though small, it was kept neat and the playground equipment was in good repair.

Attending a get-together was a new thing for Vegeta. His father had never learned what the word "fun" meant and the idea of him taking his son out anywhere as a child was laughable. He didn't remember his mother and didn't even know who she was. Sometimes he wondered if he'd ever had one. It wasn't unusual for a Saiya-jin child to not know who his or her parents were as most came to full term in incubation tanks and were then sent to centers soon after birth. That was just the way things were done on Vegeta, the way they'd been done for generations.

Trunks was running wide, endless circles around the adults with Goten and Chisa chasing after him. Vegeta had never seen him act so much like a, well, child before. Kira was nowhere to be seen and since Giselle could be spotted a mile away he knew that they had yet to arrive. Goku was unpacking food from a huge portable cool unit on wheels and setting it out on a nearby picnic table while Reina retrieved two bottles of something out of a smaller unit, one each for herself and for her husband. Vegeta smirked to himself as he eyed Chisa's father. He was a boring-looking felid, to say the least. He also looked mutinous. Reina had probably threatened him with something to get him to attend.

"Hi, Vegeta!" Reina greeted as she spotted him. "C'mon over, have a seat. This guy beside me is Chisa's father, though you probably already guessed. Reymund, this is Trunks' father, Vegeta."

"Hello," Reymund said politely. "It's nice to meet you."

"Same here." He hoped his instant dislike of the man didn't show. Walking over, he set the cake on the picnic table (right in the center) and took a seat on Reina's other side. "Uh, nice day."

"It is, isn't it?" She leaned back against the table and tilted her head upward. "It's been a long time since I took the time to stop and just enjoy life, you know? I'm always so busy trying to accomplish the impossible in my career. Can you believe there's still age-old prejudices about women floating around? A female still has to be ten-times more successful than a male who is her equal to get anywhere."

"Reina," Reymund muttered, "I'm sure he doesn't want to hear any of that."

Across Reina's lap, Vegeta met Reymund's eyes and said, "I don't mind. Really."

"No, he's right. It's my problem. I'm sorry for burdening you with it." She opened her eyes and added an honest smile to her apology. Vegeta couldn't see how a nice woman like Reina ended up with a stifling, boring man like Reymund. He was sure that Chisa had inherited nothing from her father.

Goku didn't start grilling up the food until after Giselle and Kira had arrived. They came bearing gifts -- lots of them. Giselle had brought along a large dolly similar to the one he'd borrowed from the dock all those months ago and it was piled high.

"My mother told me when I was a kid to never show up at a party empty handed," she informed them while making a production of pulling off the sheet covering everything. "So I brought stuff for us to play with and a few party favors to take home."

"I'm an adult," Reymund objected.

"Who said that you weren't?" Giselle asked. "But even adults need to have a little fun now and then. Don't you wish sometimes that you were still a kid?"

Vegeta could honestly say that he did not but could see where she was coming from.

This time Giselle wore a pair of bright yellow short-shorts and a neon purple halter top. On her feet were a pair of purple thong sandals. By comparison, in her plain jeans and t-shirt, Kira looked downright conservative. Was there anything in that woman's closet that didn't look like a rainbow had exploded all over it?

"Ooh, a volleyball net!" Goten said while tugging it off the cart. Grinning, Kira produced a ball and a handful of plastic stakes to hold it down with. "Does anyone want to play with us?" the boy asked.

"I think I will." Reina looked like she couldn't wait. Unfortunately that made the teams uneven. Reymund looked as if he was trying to grow roots, Goku was cooking, and Giselle was setting up a folding chair so that she could read what looked to be a trashy romance novel. That left only one person.

"Papa..." Trunks began in a pleading tone.

Vegeta frowned at him. "I don't do team sports."

"Aw c'mon, Vegeta!" Goku said. "It'll probably be fun." Vegeta tried desperately not to look at him for fear that he wouldn't be able to stop.

"Fine," he eventually agreed. Rising from the picnic bench, he followed the kids over to a flat grassy area and helped them set up the net. Then he wondered what he was supposed to do next. Of course he'd heard of volleyball before but he had never seen anyone play it, let alone play it himself. The kids had played it in school before, however. They knew the rules and were actually pretty good. They got through a game before Goku announced that lunch was ready. As soon as the words left his mouth the kids were all running over at top speed to where Giselle had set up all of the side dishes and the condiments, leaving Vegeta to carry the ball back over so that it didn't get lost. Reina smiled over at him (she was usually smiling) and commented on how happy the children were. He couldn't help but to agree.

The meal was more pleasant than Vegeta had thought it would be. While the kids had to be reprimanded a few times about not talking with their mouths full, everything else was perfect. Reymund kept his mouth shut most of the time (which pleased Vegeta to no end) and he was separated from Goku by Trunks and Chisa. He also took the time to surreptitiously watch how his son and Goku's behaved around each other. The kids rarely went over to Hedin so he hardly got to see how they interacted with each other. It just made more sense for them to play in Aros since three-out-of-four members of the group lived there.

There were many smiles shared between them when they thought the adults weren't paying attention. He couldn't really see his son's facial expression, but if Goten's was any indication they had fallen pretty hard for each other. Over the weeks since he'd first stumbled across the feelings the two boys had for each other, he'd had a lot of time to think. He knew Trunks didn't act his age most of the time which meant that if he thought he was in love with Son Goten then he would be pretty damn serious about it. Trunks just wasn't the type of person to do anything halfway.

Now Goten he wasn't too familiar with, but the boy was currently gazing at Trunks like the sun rose and set by his command. That was a pretty good sign that he was as serious as Trunks when it came to their relationship. The thought of two grade school kids pledging their undying love and devotion to each other was a little silly, but this relationship seemed like it would last a while. Or at least until Trunks graduated to middle school.

The adults spend the remainder of the day snacking and chatting while the kids ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. About an hour before sunset Reymund finally began loosening up, but that was probably due to the six beers he'd consumed by then. The man slowly sipped and savored each and every one like it would be the last he would ever have for the rest of his life.

Vegeta was almost asleep when Goku finally initiated the Conversation. From beneath lazy eyelids he gazed at the other man, his drowsy mind processing how handsome he was without protest from its owner. He didn't try to deny it like he had before, instead he accepted it as truth. Vegeta was suspended in a world between waking and dreaming, a world where everything was non-threatening. Goku could have declared his love to him and he would have taken it in stride.

"So it's time, hmmm?" he asked, struggling to find the energy to sit up straighter. He blinked in slow-motion, his eyelids taking up arms against the invading arm of Sleep in an epic battle to stay open.

The other Saiya-jin was confused, to say the least. "Time? Time for what?"

"Time for the Conversation." The word definitely had a capital letter when it said it. "Okay, so talk."

"Um, I'm not sure what you want me to say."

"Yes, you do, you just don't know it." Vegeta's eyelids lost the battle and they closed completely. Just when Goku thought he'd fallen asleep, the man began to speak again. His words were slowly paced and slightly slurred. "Something passed between us, ya know? Something deep and meaning-" He yawned hugely. "-ful."

Goku smiled as he thought of that moment. "Yeah, it did."

"It scares me." He hadn't meant for that to slip out and when his brain registered that it did, his eyes snapped open. "I didn't say that. You didn't hear a thing."

"Of course I didn't."

Adrenaline pumped through his body from the alarm his admission caused within him. It did wonders to push his sleepiness away. "I should go. It's almost dark and Trunks has probably passed out by now."

"Vegeta, wait!"

But he didn't wait. "Trunks, it's time to go." The kids were nowhere to be found. He wasn't particularly worried about them since they more than likely knew Aros like the backs of their hands, but being forced to wait until his son showed up again meant that Goku would have the chance to talk.

Goku moved so that he was standing in front of Vegeta and asked, "Why are you running from this?"

"I'm not running."

"Yes, you are. What's so bad about feeling this way? I'm attracted to you. You're attracted to me..."

"I don't know where you got that idea." His voice was slightly high-pitched with panic. Now that sleep had been driven back, the comfortable haze surrounding his mind was completely gone and he didn't feel at all ready to handle a Conversation with Goku.

Goku stepped back, sensing that pushing Vegeta right now was not a wise move to make. "Alright, I'll stop. For now. But this isn't over. Not by a long shot." And with those ominous words, Goku turned and began to pack up the food still remaining on the table.

It was another ten minutes before the kids returned. Tired and dirty, they stumbled over to their parents and each requested to go home. Trunks was only semi-conscious so Vegeta decided to carry him home. He was small, just like his father, so his weight wouldn't be much of a problem. Kira was settled on the dolly amongst the remainder of the stuff Giselle had brought, Chisa was nestled in her father's arms, but Goten had to walk since Goku had to tug along the cooling unit. The little boy didn't look like he would make it very far before he collapsed so it was fortunate that they were so close to home.

"See you later," Trunks called out to his friends. The other three replied with equally-as-sleepy mumblings. Before Vegeta had even gotten three blocks away, Trunks was fast asleep.

All-in-all, it had been a good day. Even with cameo appearance that the dreaded Conversation had made in the end.
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