ATTENTION! As this is now the fully edited and remastered version of this fic, I've gone through and removed all of the Author's notes from before and after the chapters, with the exception of this one. This will now read more like a book. If you run into a part of this story that doesn't make sense to you, my final notes (chapter 41) should address most of them. Enjoy!
DISCLAIMER: If you've seen this once, you've seen it a million times. As much as I wish I had a part in this fantastic series' creation, I do not. I own nothing except my imagination and my... Scratch that, I don't even own my soul either... I own nothing!
Chapter 1: Survivor's guilt
The world shook, and the heavens erupted in a blue light streaking from a tiny little mud ball called earth. Within this light was a creature, much like an overgrown grasshopper in human form. Cell was disintegrating, screaming his dying words at the young boy below him. Gohan was walking forward, a determined look on his face, his left arm hanging in front of him in tatters. His right arm was thrust forward towards the disappearing form of his nemesis. Lightning crackled around him as he made his way slowly to the edge of the crater created by him and cell. With one last furiious roar, Cell disappeared from existence, his Ki disappearing with the Kamehameha wave that consumed him.
It was finally over for Gohan. He stood there panting for a moment as the light died out in front of him, leaving a broken landscape before him. His eyes rolled up into his skull and reverted from teal to onyx, and his spiky golden locks seemed to deflate as they reverted back to their natural black. He collapsed onto his back, his destroyed left arm lying at an odd angle with the bone poking out of the large hole in his shoulder. His purple Gi was shredded, barely concealing the well-developed form so unnatural for an 11 year old boy.
It seemed for a moment that the world froze. Nobody moved. The rest of the Z fighters who were now scattered about the battlefield just stared in awe and disbelief at the fallen boy. Gohan lay there panting for a few seconds, and it was his hollow, quiet laugh that brought the others out of their stunned state. They stirred into action suddenly, rushing to his side as they realized how badly he'd been hurt.
*ACROSS THE BATTLEFIELD*
"I can't believe what I'm seeing!" Hercule breathed, dumbfounded. "That scrawny little runt used a trick to destroy Cell! That was MY kill! I could've taken him!" Mr. Satan hid behind a rock as he observed the aftermath of the battle. The camera crew and his students had been blown away by the sheer force of the struggle they had just witnessed. More than anything else at that moment, Hercule was mad at himself and his inaction. The combination of his fear at what he had seen, and his downright refusal to believe that it had actually happened was causing him to have a mild panic attack. There was no way that this little blonde kid was able to do something he couldn't! It had to be a trick, just like all the other flashy lights and flying that they were doing. Humans couldn't do those sorts of things, they were biologically incapable! He may not have been a great scholar, nor even considered himself to be any sort of academic, but he knew what the human body was capable of. Still not convinced that he had seen it all properly, or believing that it could hold any grip on reality, he decided that he would confront the boy that was now lying on the ground, and get to the bottom of it all. There had to be some explanation!
Before he even had the chance to move from behind the boulder, the large green man he had witnessed falling before the little blue cells flew to the side of the boy, closely followed by the rest of the group that he had deemed fakes. They surrounded the lone figure, and he was surprised to see they all looked to be in a state of panic. It was obvious there was something wrong with the child. Ohhhh okay, maybe it wasn't all for show, thought Hercule suddenly when he realized that the child must have been injured pretty bad during the fight if he wasn't able to stand. Maybe I should confront him later about it, I bet he needs some help! After all, light tricks or not, I saw a lot of blood coming out of him! Come to think of it, he is just a child, no older than my own daughter I bet! Whoa... If Videl had been here... Man, I don't know what kind of parents would let him fight a monster like Cell anyways!
Whether or not the boy was a fake, Mr. Satan decided he should try to help the little guy. After all, he was the world champion, and what was a better way to satisfy the public than to prove that he has a caring heart as well as a warrior's prowess? He emerged from behind his cover and began running towards the group. Behind him, he could hear the distant shouts of the others from his dojo as they began looking for him. He hoped they would catch up to get him helping the boy on camera. The masses loved that sort of soft-hearted mumbo-jumbo.
He hadn't even made it half way there before the group literally disappeared into the air. One by one, they shot into the sky, taking the wounded boy with them. All except for two: The large green man, who stood looking at the shorter guy Hercule identified as one of the weird color-changing guys that was wearing the strange blue and white armor. His hair had reverted back to black from the glowing gold that he was wearing minutes before. The champ had seen the hair switch back and forth multiple times on a few of them, but couldn't make head or tails of it. It was something for him to think about later, for now he was focused on the shorter of the two men. To Hercule, he looked like a man who had lost the will to do much anymore; frustration and despair flowed freely from his gaze as he spoke in undertones to the green man, though it seemed he was trying hard to keep up a tough guy facade. As Hercule approached the two, the shorter man seemed to lose his composure, and disappeared in a flash. The only thing Hercule noticed was a faint white trail of light that disappeared off over the horizon. Why are they still using those tricks? he thought, confused. The show is over, what purpose could that sort of thing serve with nobody around to watch? Must be because i'm still here, they don't want to disappoint.
The green man stood watching as the shorter man disappeared, then stooped to pick up the lavender haired man that Hercule had seen take one of those light beams to the chest, hefting him over his shoulder. Hercule stopped behind him in shock and looked right at the back of his gi through the giant hole in the lavender haired guys' chest. Hercule didn't know what sort of light show they were trying to pull with the flashing lights, but that wound looked real enough. More than that, the effect on the environment seemed just as real, though he reasoned that pre-placed explosives and pyrotechnics could have made as much damage to the land. The earth was trampled around them, and there was large pool of dark red sand where the boy and purple haired guy had been lying.
"What do you intend to do now Mr. Satan?" growled a different voice, and Hercule jumped when he realized it had emitted from the man in front of him. It was deep, gravely, and carried a power that sent chills of fear down his spine. The big guy hadn't turned around to look at him yet. Hercule couldn't help himself; he wanted to see the man who was speaking to him. He wanted to know what sort of trickster he was dealing with, and that meant seeing his face. He walked forward carefully approached the large trickster, barely reaching his shoulders. The body over his shoulder continued to hang limp, as if he really was dead. His shock wore off as his anger resurfaced, staring at the wound and thinking about the child.
"You guys should have let me handle that bug!" he said animatedly, pointing a thumb at his chest. "I could have taken him. Why the hell did you let a little boy fight that monster? This was supposed to be a real fight! What the hell were you thinking?! And what's with all the light shows and theatrics?!"
The man finally turned to look at Hercule, making him pale under his glare. He'd assumed it was just a human in makeup, but he was definitely not human. The green skin was not painted, nor was the pair of antennae that protruded from his forehead fake. His black eyes possessed an empty cold that would surely haunt Hercule 'til the day he died. His feral snarl showed off a set of extremely sharp canine teeth that looked vicious and powerful. In all, the large green -… thing, was a horrifying display of alien strength. But the voice that emitted from his throat would most definitely be the thing that Hercule would remember, "Hercule, I will only say this once, and you had best never forget it. We do not care what you do after today, take the credit if you will, get your money and fame. We don't want it. But you will not ever forget what my friend did here... Understand, that while you may be a powerful human in your own rights, that boy is the best this world has to offer, same as his father, whom you owe your life to. You will never be able to compare to the power that you witnessed today. It would benefit you to humble yourself, and accept that you would be nothing if not for them."
Hercule gaped at him, stunned. The hamster wheel had stopped turning and he was trying desperately to understand what had just happened, What the hell am I supposed to say to that? There's no way that a child can be more powerful than me! Before he could even voice his thoughts the green man had disappeared, the same as all the others before him, leaving Hercule at the site where Cell had disappeared. He looked around, only to find himself alone. He furrowed his brow, thinking hard. He knew that he had not destroyed Cell. But he knew that the light tricks and flying that all of those guys were using had to have been fake; mere smoke and mirrors. Or maybe an advanced suit that gave them those super abilities. He just had to find the source of it all and he could prove he was the superior fighter.
His musings were interrupted by a small commotion behind him. He turned to see a small group running from the edge of the battlefield towards him. He was silently grateful that they hadn't been there earlier, lest they heard what the green guy had said. Still, he wasn't particularly happy to see them yet. Oh great, the camera crew and that damned reporter. What am I supposed to tell them about all this? Why did those guys have to run off like that?
"Mr. Satan! Mr. Satan! What the hell happened here?! Where is Cell?" yelled the reporter as he neared, righting his broken glasses on his nose. The eyes of his students and his manager looked at him expectantly. They were all worse for wear, between the tattered clothing and the bruises and cuts that covered them, they all looked like they had been through hell. Hercule couldn't help but think, Well, I suppose when you think about it, they have. Bah! Nevermind, I have to give them something here! He pointed at the kid with the camera and loudly asked, "You, cameraman! Did you catch everything that happened out there?"
The teenage boy look at him with a depressed expression and shook his head, "Nah man, the camera was destroyed when we all got blown away. I don't even know if the footage that we had on tape survived that!"
Well… Think fast Hercule, the world expects an answer, and you're the only one besides those fakes that know what happened, he thought frantically, his heart pounding in his chest. Maybe I should just do what that green guy said? I mean, what's the worst that could happen...? It's not like they could take anything from me now that I'm on to their charade right?... They'd have to be able to set up the stage for those tricks, and I can fight them all off in a fair fight! I'm the world champ after all!
With that thought, Hercule plastered on the best smirk he could muster, and began his story, omitting the crucial detail that it was not him, but the "delivery boy" who had destroyed cell.
*A FEW MINUTES LATER AT THE LOOKOUT*
"GOHAN!" yelled the Earth's guardian frantically. Dende rushed to the side of his friend. He collapsed at his side as Yamcha dropped him from his shoulders to the tiles of the lookout. The older fighter was still in a state of shock, but was doing his best to remain in control of himself in this situation. Dende ran his panic filled eyes over them both, mortified at how badly they had come out of this one.
"Dende please, calm down and focus! Okay?" said Yamcha urgently before his tone changed to a softer one, "He's unconscious but he's still alive. Can you help him? Please, he doesn't have a lot of time left before it's too late." The scarred face of Yamcha was contorted in fear and what appeared to be nausea as he looked at the son of his one-time rival. Dende looked back at Gohan and began fully taking in his friends injuries with as calm a mind as he could. He was a mess.
His face had several cuts, one of which looked like was directly over a particularly nasty skull fracture. His legs were severely bruised and Dende could tell that there were multiple fractures. Several of his ribs were most definitely broken or cracked, one of them evidently puncturing a lung, judging by the blood flowing freely from his mouth with each ragged breath, and there were more bruises and small cuts than could be counted. But worst of all was the horrendous amount of damage done to his left arm. The muscles around the shoulder were disintegrated and burned away completely, and he could see his shoulder was out of its shattered socket, with the bone sticking out of the open wound as dark red blood oozed out onto the lookout tile. More than that, Dende could tell that the bones of his arm were borderline pulverized, and the ligaments and tendons were all shredded if they were there at all. Needless to say, this would be particularly hard, given his still limited knowledge on healing. He'd put together cuts and punctures, even severe burns and the gaping hole that had been left in Vegeta's chest on Namek, but for all intents and purposes, this arm was finished. There just wasn't anything there to put back together anymore, and creating flesh and sinew was a different prospect altogether. Had he not had the ability to heal as well as he could, there would have been no hope for the boy at all.
"Yamcha I can heal him... I think." he began hesitantly, gulping past his nerves. "He's going to have some permanent damage to his arm, how severe I don't know. I think I can give him full use of it, but at the very minimum he's going to have a scar there. There's nothing I can do about that, this is just too much! I can't just recreate his arm, I have to replicate it using what's there, and there's not much for me to work with... The rest of the damage, I think I can make disappear, but it will take a little time, and more than one attempt, I think. You might want to get his mother up here so that I can explain what's going on."
"No need Dende, Tien is on his way to get Chi-Chi." said Yamcha with a grimace. "I don't envy the man, I can only imagine what she is going to do. Krillin is stopping by Korin's, but I think we took the only senzus ready for use when the Androids appeared. The others should be here soon. Trunks and Goku didn't make it, and everyone else is in bad shape... But help Gohan first, we need to keep him alive!"
His voice was grave, and his expression was downcast as he watched Dende get to work. The guardian began, pushing his energy out to through his hands, focusing on the giant wound in his shoulder, daring to hope he had the had the skill to do it. He could sense the sinew and muscles starting to replicate and attach under his influence, and with a sickening pop, the shoulder popped back into its newly repaired socket. The muscle began to expand and flow together, closely followed by skin, sealing in the wound and creating a large pearly scar where the new skin had to be formed. The smaller cuts began to flow back together, and his breathing evened out as his punctured lung wove back together. Suddenly Dende felt himself slipping into heavy fatigue and cut the flow of energy before darkness swallowed him. He breathed heavily and leaned on his hands, trying to steady himself, "I can't continue right now Yamcha. I'm out of energy, and his injuries are too severe for me to heal in one go."
He looked up with a tired expression to meet the stares of several people. Yamcha was still staring at the tiles between his feet, silently holding back his sobs at the loss of one of his best friends. Krillin was there with an unconscious android 18 cradled in his arms bridal style as he gazed upon the still form of Gohan with what was definitely regret in his eyes. Piccolo stood in the back of the group, eyes shut and arms crossed as he stood there sensing for more Ki. Tien had arrived as well, and sat back on his haunches with his face hidden from view behind his large hands. Mirai Trunks was laying on his back on the other side of Gohan, his face still frozen in a shocked expression and the gaping hole in his chest still leaking onto the tile. But the one person Dende feared most at that moment was staring straight at him, tears in her eyes and the fiercest glare that she could manage lining her face, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CANT HEAL HIM?! MY LITTLE BABY GOT HURT AND YOU CANT HEAL HIM?! YOU'RE KAMI FOR… FOR YOUR SAKE! OH WHERE IS THAT MAN?! WHERE IS MY HUSBAND?! I TOLD HIM TO PROMISE ME THAT GOHAN WOULDN'T FIGHT, AND NOW LOOK!"
Everyone present tensed as they heard those words. Chi-Chi looked from Dende's shocked expression to the others, who suddenly noticed some fancy new patterns in the plain white tile between their feet. Picollo stepped in at this point, his face grave and his eyes showing something that few had ever seen before: Pity. Pity for a woman who did not yet know her husband was dead. He started gently, "Chi Chi, listen. What I'm about to tell you will not be easy for you to hear." Chi Chi stopped and looked at Piccolo with a death glare. He swallowed past the lump that suddenly formed in his throat and continued, "Chi Chi, your husband – Goku… He didn't make it. He sacrificed himself to save us all. Cell killed him after he used instant transmission to take that... monster away. Cell couldn't beat Gohan so he decided to self-destruct, taking the planet with him. Goku took him elsewhere, but Cell came back, and Goku was gone. Gohan nearly lost everything when Cell returned, but in the end, he was destroyed for good. We paid a terrible price. Trunks and Goku are dead, and Gohan nearly joined them."
Chi Chi's face dropped the glare as soon as Piccolo started his speech. She knew what was coming as soon as it began, but was still caught off guard when she heard the news. She promptly fainted when he finished and realized that it wasn't some sort of cruel joke, with Tien barely catching her before she hit the floor. Piccolo looked to Dende, and instantly made up his mind what their course of action should be, "Dende, get Gohan to one of the rooms up here, we need to get him back up on his feet. I don't care how long it takes. The rest of us –", He turned and looked at the group, who picked up their heads to look at the Namekian, "We are going to go collect the dragon balls from Bulma. We have two wishes to make, and I can think of what they should be already. We need to wish everyone back who Cell took from us. We're going to have to figure out what to do with Goku though. He can't be wished back by Shenron since it would be his second time. But I have an idea, and I think that Gohan will realize it when he awakens as well."
The mood seemed to lighten instantly at the mentioning of the Dragon balls. No matter how dark the times got for them, they always found a way to make it right again. It was something that their lives had been privileged with, and it was all due to a certain spiky-haired Saiyan they'd all come to love over time. The whole group stood with a new fire in their eyes. Leaving Android 18 and the body of Mirai Trunks in the hands of the little guardian and Mr. Popo, they took off to West City and Capsule Corp to make things right.
*SEVERAL HOURS LATER*
Mr. Popo and Dende had already moved Chi Chi and Gohan to beds within the lookout. Both were still unconscious when the Z fighters had returned, this time with a very quiet Vegeta and a very frantic Bulma carrying a crying baby Trunks in her arms. She instantly spotted her deceased teenage son from the future and sprinted over to him with a strangled yelll. While she technically hadn't raised this boy, she still felt a powerful motherly affection towards him. Even Vegeta was struggling, standing in the back with his eyes closed and brow furrowed as he clenched his fists at his sides in anger.
Krillin brought forward a large bag and emptied the contents onto the floor of the lookout, revealing the seven Dragon Balls that Bulma had a habit of collecting now, "Well guys, what do you say we do this? No time like the present right?"
He glanced at the sobbing Bulma and then to Piccolo, who shook his head at the monk, "Not until Gohan gets here. Dende's working on Gohan right now, and judging by the kid's ki, he's about to be coming around. He needs to be here for this. We owe it to him to add his own input, considering he's the one who took Cell down."
No sooner had the words left his mouth than the entire Z-gang felt the boy's ki spike and then level out. They all turned their heads expectantly towards the building in the center of the lookout, where Gohan emerged next to a very exhausted looking Dende, clutching his left side and favoring his right leg. He was wearing his white traditional shirt and black pants that he wore prior to the Cell games. In spite of the severity of his injuries, his face lit up into a weak smile as he took in the gang and the dragon balls lying before them. The Z fighters let out a collective sigh of relief at seeing him alive and moving under his own power. He coughed lightly once and said with a surprisingly cheery tone, "Hey guys! Sorry I took so long, that grasshopper bit off a bit more than I expected, huh?
The gang all laughed except for Vegeta and Piccolo, who just smirked at the bit dark humor. Even in the gravest of situations, he still had his father's ability to make the situation seem just a bit less grim. Piccolo was the first to break the following silence, "You had us all worried there kid. Glad to see you up on your feet. This time, you get to do this. Summon Shenron, you've earned that right."
Gohan nodded and limped over to the group to stand in front of the Dragon balls. He looked expectantly over to Dende, who simply nodded and went over to check on Android 18, who was beginning to stir. Gohan looked down upon the dragon balls, summoned the strength in his voice, and spoke the words to summon the dragon, "Eternal dragon! By your name I summon you forth: Shenron!"
The dragon balls glowed golden, and the sky began to darken. Lightning jumped from one ball to the others before shooting up into the sky and taking the form of Shenron. The dragon looked down upon the Z fighters and spoke in a low rumbling voice that vibrated everyone down to their bones, "I have been summoned! State your two wishes."
Gohan looked back at the Z-fighters and got the silent consent to continue, "Shenron! Please, revive all of the people that were killed by Cell and the Androids!"
Shenron hesitated a moment, closing his eyes as if in deep thought. "Do you realize what you are asking of me?" he asked after a moment's pause. His eyes opened to take in the hopeful looks of all the Z fighters. "Very well, It shall be done."
The dragons eyes glowed a brilliant ruby color, and all of the Z-fighters could feel the life return to the planet, as well as Mirai Trunks. The hole in his chest closed suddenly, and he began to cough as the life flowed back into him. Bulma squealed in delight and tackled her future son as he tried to sit up. Trunks gasped at the sudden loss of air and looked around in confusion before realization set in, and he returned his mother's hug.
Gohan tore his eyes from the scene to look up at the Z fighters again. He'd hoped that he was wrong, and his father would have been included in that wish. But after all, the laws that governed the dragon were still in place, and his father remained gone. Still full of hope, he sheepishly let out his thoughts, "Well guys, what now? I know dad couldn't be wished back with Shenron, but we need him still. It's a lot to ask, but do you think we should wish ourselves to New Namek and ask them to summon Porunga for us?"
Before anyone could answer his question, a new voice was heard echoing in all of their heads, "Wait you guys, don't make that wish! It'll do you no good!"
Yamcha, Tien, and Piccolo instantly recognized the voice and looked up to the sky. Yamcha was the first to recover from the shock while the rest of the gang looked at him expectantly when he gasped in recognition, "King Kai! Is that you?! What's going on? Why shouldn't we try to wish Goku back? He is there, right?"
"Well yes, but... you can't because… Well because by order of the Grand Kai, Goku cannot come back!" said the Kai with bitter dissappointment in his voice. "He brought Cell to my planet, and I died as a result of his actions... I'm sorry my friends, the Grand Kai has made the decision that his punishment for my death is to remain dead. Permanently."
The Z fighters faces drained of color, even Piccolo seemed pale. But one of the group took the blow worse than the rest. Gohan stood there, dumbfounded at the revelation. The bubble of hope that had been swelling in his chest had just burst, leaving a void where his father used to be. In that one moment, his entire world seemed to crash down around his head with nobody to blame but himself.