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.
"Are you ready to go?"
"I’ve been ready forever."
"Are you sure about this?"
"Trust me, this needs to be done."
"It’s nothing they can’t handle."
"I don’t know if I believe that. It’s sort of my fault that this is happening, and it’s my job to make sure that everything comes out all right."
"If you say so, Goku."
The lamplight was soft and yellow, but it still hurt Gohan’s eyes. Despite all the time he’d spent resting in the past few hours, he was completely exhausted. The prospect of crawling into bed and sleeping until sometime in the next century was becoming more and more appealing by the second.
But instead of sleeping, he was sitting in the living room of his house in a chair, facing the couch where his interrogators—ah, his friends and family were sitting. At that moment, he would have much rather been cut in half with a rusty spoon then be sitting there looking into their worried, anxious faces, having to take that disappointment and face it head on. And what made it worse was that they’d been sitting there for nearly half an hour, and they hadn’t said anything. It had become painfully obvious that what was supposed to happen was that he was to start the conversation with some semblance of an explanation or an apology, two things he wasn’t really in a hurry to dish out. He figured that if he sat there long enough, they would get sick of waiting and just start the stupid conversation. Judging by Piccolo’s agitated expression, it wouldn’t be very much longer.
Outside a torrential downpour was only adding to the depression surrounding that little room. The clouds overhead had darkened to black, hiding the stars and moon. Every few minutes, lightning would brighten the darkness, and thunder would crash, shaking the little Capsule house and making the lights flicker. Goten and Trunks, who were both fuming over an argument as to who had really won The Quiet Game, were standing at the window with their little hands and faces pressed up against the glass in awe. Gohan figured it was just a matter of time before his mother yelled at them for smudging up her clean window. Neither of them really knew what was going on—he doubted that either of them even had a concept of suicide—and he wasn’t inclined to fill them in.
Gohan twisted his hands in his lap, focusing on the scar that ornamented his arm. A nice, painful reminder of his own stupidity. He wished that someone would say something. He didn’t care what at that point—cry, scream, yell, swear, ground him until he graduated from college, something!
A particularly bright flash of lightning broke across the clouds, sending the two chibis running away from the window in surprise and fear. Trunks ran and hid behind his mother on the couch, earning a look of disgust and an eye-roll from Vegeta, while Goten dived into his brother’s lap and clung to Gohan’s shirt in sheer panic.
Smiling a little at the unexpected and much-welcomed interruption to this unsubtle torture, Gohan wrapped a comforting arm around the frightened child. "What’s the matter, squirt?"
"Loud. Bright. Scary," Goten whispered seriously.
Across the room, Trunks snorted from behind his mother. "You big scaredy-cat!"
"You ran away too!" Goten turned and whined at his friend. Trunks merely snorted again, but just then the thunder hit and both chibis screamed and took to their hiding places again. "Big brother protect me!" Goten squealed, hiding his face in Gohan’s shirt.
Something akin to compassion crossed Gohan’s face. "Don’t be afraid. I’ll protect you."
Goten responded with a muffled sound of agreement.
The tension in the room was now broken, much to Gohan’s relief.
"Goten, Trunks, I think it’s time for you two to go to bed," Bulma said, and interrupted the chibi’s protests with a very firm "NOW!"
"But big brother hasta tell me a story!" Goten protested indignantly, pulling his face out of Gohan’s shirt and turning to face Bulma.
The teenager saw the opportunity, and he seized it. "Well, I think we can do that." He darted across the room and plucked Trunks out from behind Bulma, and was out of the room before the adults could really react.
I may not be able to get out of this, he thought grimly, but I can at least postpone it a little longer.
Tucking the two children safely into Goten’s bed, he told them the story. But he was only able to put half as much into it as he usually would; his mind was thinking more about what he was going to face when he went back to the living room. The prospect was just short of a nightmare.
Soft, even breathing told him that the demonic duo had been taken away to Dreamland, and signaled the end of his reprieve. Steeling himself for what was to come, he tiptoed out, easing the door closed behind him.
Just as he turned away from the door, he heard a scream from the living room.
Oh god! his heart quickened. Mom!
In a flash he was in the room and in a fighting stance, but no scene of destruction met his eyes. The only thing out of place was an overturned couch. Piccolo was off by the door, shaking his head and muttering, while Bulma and ChiChi were both sitting beside the upended piece of furniture, mouths hanging open. Vegeta, in the true Vegeta manner, was standing alone with his arms folded. He was using some fairly colorful expletives in what sounded like about five different languages.
Then he followed everyone’s gaze to the reason the room was so different from the one he had left. And his arms dropped to his sides in shock as his tongue froze in his head, impairing his ability to form words and speak.
No…it can’t be… he could feel himself starting to shake. It just can’t be…impossible…
In the middle of the room was an all-too-familiar figure, exactly how Gohan remembered him—the orange and blue gi, the gravity-defying spikes of hair, the friendly charcoal eyes, and the famous smile, all of which Gohan had missed seeing for the past three years.
Somehow, he managed to get his voice working enough to say one word. "…Dad?"
Son Goku’s eyes came to rest on his son, and they brightened. "Hello, Gohan."
That was all the conversation they had time for as ChiChi recovered from her shock and dove at her husband. A brief but happy reunion followed.
"Goku, how—" Bulma (who had picked herself up off the floor) started to ask, but he answered before she could finish.
"I have one day to spend here on Earth," he said cheerfully. Gohan immediately noticed, however, that there was something bothering his dad. There had to be a reason for Goku to come back. But what? The teenager forced himself to listen as his father continued. "I’m spending today with my family."
As Goku’s eyes once again focused on him, Gohan knew. He knew exactly why his father had returned at that moment. There just wasn’t another explanation.
Ice clawed its way up Gohan’s insides. Dear gods, what do I do?
Surprisingly, another emotion began eating at Gohan’s stomach, something he thought he’d buried long ago, in the days immediately following the Cell Games. A feeling he wanted to forget, but staring his dead father in the face had brought it right back up to the front. Something so severe it was already consuming him.