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.
Gohan thought his head was going to explode. Although Goten and Trunks had been warned to leave him alone, the threat of unspecified torture wasn’t enough to keep them from peppering the exhausted teenager with questions.
"Where were you?" "Why were you bleeding when Piccolo brought you back?" "Did ya hurt yourself?" "Who was the short guy that looked like Piccolo?" "Why did I hafta call you?"
Finally, it was more than Gohan could take. He sat straight up on the couch and yelled at the two chibis. "ENOUGH!" It took most of what he had left, and made his head throb in time to his pulse, but it was enough to frighten the two children into silence. After about two seconds of dead quiet, a soft sniffle was heard, a sniffle that erupted into a full-blown wail, courtesy of Goten. Trunks took his best friend’s lead and also began to cry.
Gods, leave me alone! he sighed and buried his head under the pillow. At least the adults had agreed to let him rest for a little while longer before the interrogation began. While Dende’s healing could stop the bleeding and heal the injury almost entirely, it wasn’t quite enough to take care of the weakness he’d sustained from blood loss, so he was being allowed a little time to rest. And he intended to take full advantage of the fact. Now if only he could do something about the kids…hmm…he was sure he had just enough left for a nice-sized energy blast…
No, Mom would never forgive me for that one, he thought sadly, pulling the blanket up to his chin. Besides, unless you’re Vegeta, blowing people up isn’t the best way to solve a problem. Speaking of problems, I gotta get outta here before they decide I’ve rested enough. They’re going to ask me questions I don’t even have answers for. I need to get away.
Even to his own mind, it was incredible that all his thoughts still only focused on thoughts of escaping and running away. He was already home, and they’d made it quite clear that they weren’t going to let him go without a fight. Yet he still needed to run, though he still wasn’t sure from what.
An idea struck him, and he rolled over to look at the sobbing children. "Hey, you two, let’s play a game. It’s called the Quiet Game." Immediately, the two chibis stopped crying and looked at him with intent interest. "What you hafta do is be really quiet. The first one to talk loses. Coughing and sneezing is allowed. Got it?" They nodded, and he grinned to himself. "Ready…go!"
The wonderful, wonderful sound of silence landed on the room with a thud. Goten and Trunks each took a chair and stared at each other intently, each determined that the other would be the first to make that crucial sound and therefore lose the game.
Chuckling quietly in victory, Gohan eased himself to his feet and tiptoed towards the door, which he opened and closed silently before turning to face the fresh air. Grey clouds now blanketed the sky, and he suspected that it would rain any minute. It didn’t bother him, though.
A pang of guilt struck a chord in his heart, something he didn’t expect. It was at the thought of leaving Goten behind again. For a short moment, he paused. His brother had called him back from the darkness, though for what reason he didn’t know.
Goten doesn’t know, he decided. He doesn’t know about all the things I’ve done. He doesn’t know what happened at the Cell Games. He doesn’t know, and even if he did, chances are that he wouldn’t understand. If he did, he’d probably hate me too. It’s my fault he doesn’t have a father.
Becoming firm in his resolution to free them from the pain of his existence, Gohan began walking. His weakness still plagued him somewhat, and he didn’t quite trust himself to try and fly. He just wanted to get somewhere else. He was nearing the forest as the first few drops of rain sprinkled down on him.
But unbeknownst to Gohan, someone had been watching him, ever since he’d woken up. The trust was gone, and this someone had responded to an instinct that said Gohan wasn’t through yet. That instinct had been correct.
God damn it, kid, Piccolo growled. Here we go again. You’re just not in as good of shape now. This should be much easier.
Gohan collapsed under a tree. He hadn’t been able to get very far in his current condition. It dawned on him that his disappearance had been discovered, and chances were that someone had been sent on to track him down and drag him back again.
Someone. Translation: Piccolo and/or Vegeta. They’d been the hunters since this whole thing had began. And he’d been the hunted.
He still wasn’t sure what was driving him to run away, and he was beginning to hate it, that inner urge to escape everyone that cared about him and everything that had ever meant anything to him.
A check with that handy sixth sense told him that the hunters were indeed on their way, moving at quite a leisurely pace. That meant that they knew exactly what his condition was, and they knew how easy it was going to be if they caught him. He didn’t have enough reserves to fight.
Shit, shit, shit, he cursed, anger battling fear for supremacy in the confusion and chaos of his mind.
He struggled to his feet, that strange drive forcing him to his feet and making him run. He suspected that given half a chance, it would push him to the point of death if necessary.
*Just knock it off, kid,* Piccolo’s voice jumped into his open mind. *Come on, be reasonable. You’re in no condition to try and survive out there.*
*I don’t care.*
*Listen up, brat,* to Gohan’s startlement, Vegeta joined in on the conversation with no little anger. *You’re being a damned fool, and I suspect you already know that. Think about someone other than yourself! Do you think we enjoy having to hunt you down and drag you back? And even though I don’t like that damn woman, I think your mother deserves a little better than this. Bulma hasn’t given me a moment’s peace, and neither has my son. And while we’re on the topic of children, let’s talk about your little brother. If you recall, he doesn’t have a father. He has you, and that’s it. So start thinking and stop being so god damn selfish!* The Saiyan Prince finished, and a sullen silence replaced the voice in Gohan’s mind.
The anger of the words stung his mind like nothing else had yet. And it stunned him into a reaction that no one, not even himself, would have ever expected.
Gohan stopped running.
The rain hammered down, soaking him to the skin. One wet lock of black hair drooped down, plastering itself to his forehead, but he ignored it. He squeezed his eyes shut and let his head drop. His breath came in ragged gasps both from exhertion and emotion. At his sides, his hands clenched into fists. It didn’t help matters that he was shaking from head to toe.
Just leave me alone… he thought, but he couldn’t will himself to send the thought at his mentor. He just knew that Piccolo wouldn’t pay it any heed; he was far too stubborn for that. And the same went for Vegeta. The two were far more alike then they would probably ever admit.
A soft rustle of fabric and the sound of a twig breaking told him that they’d caught up to him, that they were right behind him, prepared to drag him home by force if necessary and make him face everything he’d been trying to get away from. Every instinct in his body was screaming at him to run, to flee, to get as far away as he could. But as with the thought, he couldn’t will himself to escape.
In the next five seconds, three eternities passed. Silence had descended along with the still-falling rain. Gohan managed to get his breathing back to normal, and his thoughts straightened themselves out.
I don’t want to run anymore… the realization hit with the force of lightning.
The response nearly made him jump, but years of dearly-bought self-control kept him from showing any signs of surprise. He answered, tentatively, *Did I send that?*
*As a matter of fact, you did,* Piccolo’s mindvoice was too calm. *If you don’t want to run anymore, then don’t. Come back. Everyone just wants to help you, Gohan. They want you home.*
Gohan wanted to protest that he couldn’t go back, that he couldn’t face the friends and family he’d nearly run out on for a second time. Then he looked down at his arm. A thin white line decorated his lower arm from wrist halfway to his elbow, a nice little souvenir of the past couple of days. The chaos of emotions that had knotted themselves around his heart squeezed with the memories, and with that pressure, the last of his self-control broke.
Tears fell, mixing with the tears of the clouds on his face. He could taste the salt. How long had it been since he’d cried enough to taste it? He didn’t want to remember. Silently, he willed himself to stop, but his shoulders wouldn’t stop shaking. Gohan knew that behind him, they could see him breaking down, and he was absolutely certain that they were shaking their heads in disgust, condemning him for showing emotions, for the weakness of tears.
Instead of a scathing reprimand, a hand lowered itself onto his shoulder. He raised his head and partially turned. Surprisingly, it was Vegeta, looking at him with a strange half-smile. "Ready to go?"
Gohan stared blankly at the Saiyan Prince, the words not totally registering in his mind. As everything clicked in his mind, he slowly lifted his gaze to look at Piccolo. His former mentor also wore that odd little half-smile. Under Gohan’s questioning glance, the Namekian nodded slightly.
Another tense moment of silence. The two adults waited expectantly for the teenager’s answer.
Finally, Gohan’s shoulders slumped in defeat and he nodded, once. Then let his chin fall against his chest again, focusing his attention on a very oddly-shaped rock that had taken up residence in the mud at his feet.
A hand pressed itself against his back and steered him over towards Piccolo, but he didn’t look up; he just couldn’t look his mentor in the face. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to look anyone in the face. It was to the point that he couldn’t understand why they would want him back. He was lower than dogs, or at least that’s how he felt.
But the choice was no longer his to make.
It was over.
He was going home.
And this time, he was going to stay there.