Fandom: Dragonball Z
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements)
Publish Date: 8/13/2002 to 11/4/2002
Disclaimer: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, I do not own DBZ.
Dende’s sigh could barely be heard over ChiChi’s sobbing. Vegeta and Piccolo had, ironically enough, brought Gohan back to the very place he’d been trying so desperately to escape from. Now he was tucked into his own bed. A house-call from the God of the Earth had managed to stop the bleeding, and to everyone’s surprise, Gohan was still breathing. They weren’t sure how such a thing was possible, but they were thankful.
"At least he’s alive," Bulma murmured tearfully. Her three-year-old son looked up at her in confusion. Since he’d been sleeping when Bulma had been called by ChiChi, he had been left in the care of their robot-helpers the previous night. He had been picked up and brought over to the Son residence earlier that morning. Neither Trunks nor Goten knew what was going on, but both children had cried at least once; they knew something was wrong, even if they didn’t know what.
"Somewhat," Dende muttered as he looked out the window.
Piccolo looked startled. "What do you mean, ‘somewhat’? He’s breathing. That should mean he’s alive, shouldn’t it?"
"Yes…and no," Kami turned a measuring glance on his fellow Namekian. "I believe we may be dealing with an unensouled body. He’s just a shell right now. The lights are on and everything’s working, but nobody’s home. It almost never happens."
"You mean his soul just left his body?" Vegeta asked incredulously.
"That’s exactly what I mean," Dende nodded firmly. "His soul will be tied to his body for as long as his body stays alive. Some part of him must not have wanted to die, and my guess is that his soul fled to avoid death. It doesn’t make much sense, but I do know that he’s probably in much more danger and pain now than ever before. He won’t pass on, and chances are that without help he won’t be able to find his way back to himself."
"So he’s in a sort of purgatory?" Bulma supplied, and when Dende nodded again, she continued. "But you said he can’t find the way back without help. So there must be a way to help him."
"There is, but we need someone with an unbelievably strong emotional link to Gohan," Earth’s God sighed. "If he was older and had perhaps managed to bond to someone, that would have worked, but because he didn’t, we have to find someone else." A tug on his sleeve distracted him and he looked down to see two small faces looking up at him.
"’Scuse me, mister, but what’s wrong with Gohan?" Trunks asked. "Nobody’ll tell us!"
Goten just sniffled, looking pitiful. "I want brother back."
It was as if a light clicked on over Dende’s head, and he knelt down beside the chibis, putting his hands on Goten’s shoulder. He studied the child carefully. "Maybe…"
Bulma seemed to catch on to what Kami was thinking, and she was quick to supply some additional information. "Dende, Goten could sense when his brother was in trouble. He became completely hysterical around the time Piccolo said Gohan cut his wrist…"
Vegeta looked stunned; apparently, he hadn’t been privy to that tidbit of information.
"Then this should work," Dende said with great confidence. "If he can sense that, he can call his brother back." He looked back down at the now-frightened-looking chibi. "Goten, your brother needs your help. Do you think you can call him back with your mind?"
Goten looked stricken at the thought of Gohan being in trouble; this was closely followed by confusion. "How?"
Piccolo supplied the answer by picking the two-year-old up and setting him on the bed beside his brother. "We can’t tell you that because we don’t know. Just try for us, kid."
The child gulped nervously, then a look of sheer determination came onto his face. "I will."
All of the adults exited the room, leaving Goten alone with what might as well have been the body of his older brother. The chibi was confused and scared. How did he call his brother back with his mind? But determination took over. Gohan needed help, and he would give that help.
Taking Gohan’s limp hand in both of his own, Goten remembered what Gohan had taught him about focusing, and tried it, reaching out with his mind.
Just like Gohan had taught him.
Big brother? the child thought as hard as he could. Gohan!
So absorbed was he in his task that he didn’t notice that the door was open a crack and that there was a small army of people outside watching through that crack.
"Well?" ChiChi hissed impatiently. "How long should this take?"
"How should I know, woman?" Vegeta retorted in a whispered snarl.
"Shut up, both of you!" Piccolo growled, not taking his eyes away from the opening between door and doorframe and the scene visible in that opening.
Inside the room, Goten was trying his hardest to send something to reach his brother. And he didn’t feel like it was working.
No… his stubborn two-year-old mind refused to give up. I want brother back.
"I gotta get outta here," Gohan muttered, dragging his feet over an invisible ground. "If only I knew where here was…"
Just then, the strangest thing happened. A beacon of light shot through the darkness behind him. He whirled around to stare at it in awe. It was pulsing, dimming and brightening to the beat of his heart, and it had an unmistakable aura to it.
A voice came into his head then, one he would have known anywhere. I want my brother back.
But if Goten was talking to him…that had to mean he was home…
Oh no… he cringed at the thought of going back to the one place he’d been fighting so hard to get away from. Everyone was probably there, just waiting for him to wake up so they could lay into him for how stupid he’d been. Gods, he just wanted to die.
But if Goten could still talk to him, then that meant…he wasn’t dead…how could he not be dead? He practically ripped his arm open! This was impossible!
But if he was dead, wouldn’t he…be somewhere? Instead of just floating aimlessly through the never ending darkness. So…it had to be true. He wasn’t dead.
His hands clenched into fists at his sides. No! I screwed up again! Dammit, I can’t even die without messing it up!
Shaking his head in anger, he looked at the beam of light that had pierced the unending night around him. Now he could pick up more things from it. More thoughts, and emotions.
What he was getting was enough to send him to his knees.
Come back, big brother. Everyone misses you. Mommy’s crying. I don’t want Mommy to cry anymore. Please, big brother. You hafta tell me my bedtime story. We have to explore that weird cave that I’m not s’posed to tell Mommy about ‘cause she’ll get mad…Gohan, wake up…
The plaintiveness of his little brother’s thoughts got to him like nothing else could. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t leave his brother behind. After depriving the child of a father, it wasn’t even a choice anymore. He had to be there. Staggering to his feet, he ran through the darkness with Saiyan-bred speed, racing towards the light that now seemed to be a beacon of hope.
Hang on, Goten… he thought with all his might, praying that his brother could hear him. I’m coming. Just show me the way.
Everyone raced into the room as Goten’s head snapped back. The child jerked a few times, then fell over unconscious, his head resting on his older brother’s chest. ChiChi started screaming while Bulma rolled the chibi over and checked him over quickly.
"He just passed out, I guess," she finally delivered her verdict. "Probably wore himself out trying to reach Gohan." She sighed and looked at the teenager. "Doesn’t look like it did any good, though."
"NO!" ChiChi moaned, falling to her knees while Dende went to work on Goten, shaking his head and muttering something about being sure it would work. Seconds later the chibi was back on his feet.
Piccolo said nothing, but exchanged a look with Vegeta. The two men leaned over the still-unmoving form of Gohan and watched closely.
Their scrutiny was rewarded when they saw Gohan’s eyebrow twitch ever so slightly. Neither said anything. As if they could have been heard over Bulma’s rambling and ChiChi’s sobs.
Gohan twitched again, and his eyelids fluttered a tiny bit, then he fell still.
Vegeta and Piccolo both straightened up and glanced at each other. Each wore a very satisfied grin on their respective faces, making it quite clear that both were thinking the exact same thing.
"Hey, you might wanna look at this," Piccolo commented smugly to the women. Both fell silent. In the newfound quiet it was possible to hear a soft groaning.
Coming from Gohan, who was now moving a lot more, though he had yet to fully open his eyes. Trunks crawled onto the bed and poked Gohan’s forehead. "Hey Gohan? Bad dream?"
No sooner were the words out of his mouth then Gohan’s eyes flew open, and the teenager half-jumped, half-fell out of bed, hitting the wall on the other side of the room. His eyes were wide, his face was pale, and he was gasping for air. Apparently he was also still weakened somewhat because he wasn’t on his feet for very long; he slid down the wall to the floor, still panting, and shaking from head to foot.
Everyone froze except Goten, who pulled away from his mother and Bulma and crossed the room, wrapping his tiny arms around his trembling brother. "S’okay, big brother. You safe now."
Gohan looked down at the top of Goten’s head, face still a mask of confusion and fear. It was obvious that he really didn’t know where he was. Then he slowly wrapped his arms around the chibi and murmured a few words into Goten’s hair. "I…heard you…the light…walked to the light…the way back…"
Still standing by the bed, even Piccolo had smile ever so slightly at the quite touching scene. A child comforting a child. Unbelievable. So you chose to come back. Where were you that was so bad that you’d rather be here? After you swore you would never come back. Huh.
Trunks was the next to get over his startlement. He’d been sitting on the bed when Gohan had "returned", and had been rather unceremoniously thrown to the floor. Nevertheless, he joined his best friend by also hugging Gohan and saying comforting things. "Calm down. S’okay, Gohan. We all happy ‘cause you came back. S’okay."
Gohan finally pulled himself to his feet, pratically clinging to the wall for support. He shook his head, but did not look at anyone. "I’m…I’m okay…" Apparently feeling he had said enough, he staggered through the open door. And everyone was still too stunned to even try and stop him.
His mother was the first to regain her senses, her maternal instincts overriding shock. "Gohan!" ChiChi followed him, accompanied by the two children and Dende. Vegeta, Piccolo, and Bulma were left in the teenager’s bedroom. It was hard to believe that this whole thing had started the night before in this very room. It seemed like too long of a time to have only been the previous evening, while at the same time it seemed like centuries had passed.
"Did you see that?" Bulma remarked, echoing Piccolo’s thoughts of a moment before. "A child comforting a child. Except Gohan isn’t really a child. He never was. And now we have to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid again." She stopped talking for a breath and looked down. "I still don’t understand…why would he…"
"We’re going to find out," Vegeta answered firmly as he exited the room, though he already knew. Gohan’s outburst after the suicide attempt had made many pieces of a previously unsolvable puzzle fall quite nicely into place. But everyone needed to hear everything straight from the horse’s mouth.
Bulma sighed. "I hope so."