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.
*It’s good to hear you laugh again,* Piccolo thought with a faint smile.
The thought was directed towards the teenager sitting in the middle of the room. Well, he was attempting to sit, anyway. But it’s difficult to sit whilst being attack (or so it seemed) by a small army of people. Okay, it was only two very energetic chibis and one very cheerful adult. Son Gohan was engaged in a fierce wrestling match with his brother, his brother’s best friend, and his father. As Goten jumped up and latched onto Gohan’s neck, the teenager fell over, and something strange happened. Gohan burst out laughing. It was that laughter that had prompted the Namekian to send the thought.
*It feels good to really laugh again,* came the somewhat-sadder reply. *Instead of pretending.*
*Huh. You should try laughing more often,* Piccolo retorted. It was so wonderful to be able to just talk to his old student again, sending jibes back and forth. *Who knows? It might grow on you?*
*Hmm...* a short pause, then, *Hey...do you think Goten’s trying to strangle me or what? Man, the kid’s got a grip!*
The Namekian cracked a smile, while Gohan pushed himself into a sitting position and pried the two-year-old from around his neck. With some effort, he then managed to redirect the energy and focus of both chibis towards the elder Son. For the moment, Goku had his hands quite full.
Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, watching the children attack Goku. Though Gohan didn’t know it, for the most part they shared Piccolo’s sentiments—hearing Gohan laugh again was nothing less than music.
Out of the corner of his eye, Gohan noticed Vegeta leaning against the wall, watching the spectacle on the floor passively. The proud Saiyan’s eyebrow was twitching ever so slightly.
He wants to get at Dad, but he doesn’t dare, Gohan realized. Not now. He knows what Bulma will do to him if he screws anything up now, I bet. Hmm...I wonder how much time Dad has left...
As if in reply, a puff of smoke suddenly appeared near the ceiling, and there appeared a short old woman sitting on what appeared to be a crystal ball. "Goku, it’s time."
The room became very still and very silent. Vegeta stood up straight, looking as though he’d been struck. The two chibis looked around blankly, confused as to why their wrestling match had been interrupted. And who was the funny lady?
Goku climbed to his feet, an unusually grim look on his normally-cheerful face. "Okay. Can I say goodbye first?"
The woman nodded. "Make it quick."
ChiChi darted forward and threw her arms around her husband’s neck, burying her face in his shirt. "Goku, do you have to go?" she asked, her voice breaking, tears running from her eyes down her face and leaving streaks on her cheeks.
"Yes, I have to," he said fondly, putting his hands on her shoulders in a reassuring touch.
Goten chose that moment to run forward and wrap his tiny arms as far around his father’s leg as they would go. "Daddy go?"
"Yes, Goten," Goku knelt down to the child’s level. "Daddy go."
"Why?" the chibi asked, his chin quivering. "Like you!"
"I like you too, but this is something I have to do," the Saiyan picked up his younger son and made his way to the door. Everyone followed him outside to say their goodbyes; Gohan came as well, though he trailed behind the rest a bit.
The goodbyes were brief and often tear-filled. Vegeta chose to remain by the house, leaning against the wall, half-concealed in the shadows. Piccolo did the same. Eighteen showed no emotion whatsoever towards what was transpiring.
Gohan hung back as well, though not as far as Piccolo or Vegeta. He wasn’t sure how this goodbye was going to go, and putting it off as long as possible seemed like a brilliant plan. So he watched impassively as the entire gang said goodbye to his father.
It was Goten’s goodbye that got almost everyone; Gohan glanced back to see that even Piccolo looked a little sadded at the sight. Goten cried into his father’s shirt, demanding to know why "Daddy go," and if "Daddy come back." They were answers that Goku just couldn’t give.
And finally, Goku placed the chibi safely in his mother’s arms and made his way over to Gohan, who had lowered his gaze to study his father’s shoes.
"Gohan?" Goku said softly. "Take care of your mother for me, all right?"
The teenager nodded mutely.
Goku took one more step forward and put his hands on his son’s shoulders. "You’re going to be fine, Gohan. I know it. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, but you shouldn’t have let it get to this point. Hang in there. Things will work out."
Slowly, Gohan lifted his eyes and met his father’s gaze. And he nodded, ever so slightly.
"Goodbye, son," Goku said softly. With that, he released Gohan’s shoulders, pivoted and strolled back over to where Baba was waiting on her crystal ball.
"Goodbye, Dad," Gohan answered just as softly, not sure if his words were heard.
Goku and Baba lifted off into the air, and everyone waved and hollered goodbyes at their friend until both had faded from sight. Left behind on the ground was a group of much-saddened people. Slowly, the gang began to filter back into the house. Eventually, there were only three people left outside.
"Gohan?" Goten pulled on his brother’s hand. "Where Daddy go? He come back?"
"I don’t know, squirt," Gohan replied truthfully, letting his hand rest on the child’s head. His fingers laced through the soft hair that was so much like their father’s. "But I hope so."
The child was apparently satisfied by this response, and smiled—that Son grin, their father’s smile—before scampering back towards the house in search of excitement and most likely trouble. Gohan was left alone with the one other person still standing in the front yard. This person now moved forward silently to stand beside the teenager, where both looked up towards the spot where Son Goku had last been visible before disappearing.
Finally, it was Gohan who broke the silence. "Are you leaving, Piccolo?"
"Yeah, kid," the Namekian answered, shooting a glance down at his former student. The teenager’s eyes were distant and unreadable. "You gonna be okay?"
Slowly, Gohan turned his head and lifted his eyes to meet Piccolo’s. "Yeah, I’ll be fine."
He’s been saying that a lot lately, Piccolo thought, but didn’t press the issue. Instead, he made a small sound of agreement and took to the air; he stopped about ten feet up, where he turned and called down to Gohan. "Come find me later, Gohan. I wanna talk to you." Then he pivoted and was gone in an eyeblink, shooting across the darkened sky in a flash of light.
Piccolo was gone, leaving Gohan alone in front of his house, trying to make some sense of the thoughts and emotions that were busy chasing each other around his mind, beating themselves against the inside of his skull. He wasn’t sure what to think, do, or even be next.
Overhead, the sky was almost pitch-black, both from the late hour and the thick clouds that had been ashen all day, but had also darkened to the color of soot. It was almost a reflection of the shadow that was tightening its fist around his soul. The sounds around him vanished—the rustling of animals in the trees nearby, crickets chirping to each other across the grass, the laughter and voices from inside the little house. All faded to nothingness. He was the only person left on Earth, or so it felt.
The first drop of rain hit his forehead, followed by many more, falling on his face, hair, and clothes. He reflected again on how his surroundings were almost the embodiment of his feelings.
Though the desperation was no longer there, eating away at his mind and heart, the confusion was, as strong as ever. And Son Gohan had never before felt so alone.