AN: Another one of those Goten-Gohan-brother stories that make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. As the title implies, the song chosen for this little story is "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time on You" by NSYNC I think it just screamed "Gohan and Goten!", so that's how I wrote it. I don't own the song or DBZ. In all truth, I really don't own much.
God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You
"Gohan?" a soft voice stirred him from his doze.
"Hmm?" the twelve-year-old looked up and blinked several times, trying to clear the last of the sleep haze from his eyes. After a few blinks, Bulma's smiling face came into focus.
"Gohan, your mother wants to see you now," the woman's smile grew broader. "She has someone she wants you to meet."
"Oh...okay," Gohan stretched out from the warm little ball he'd been dozing off in. The chair in the hospital waiting room was surprisingly comfortable, and it had been easy to just let himself drift off. "Where is she?"
"Come one, follow me," Bulma gestured towards a set of swinging double doors.
Gohan's mother had woken him up at two in the morning, telling him that they needed to go to the hospital right away. Before they'd taken off, she'd had him call Bulma and tell her what was going on. While Gohan had obviously known that his mother was pregnant, the chance that maybe the baby was going to be born tonight hadn't really registered in his tired mind. He'd just done what he was told, and ended up falling asleep in the waiting room.
He followed Bulma through several hallways up to a door, where she stopped. "She's in here. You can go in alone. I've already talked to her. I think you'll like what she's got to tell you." With that, the woman turned and strolled back down the hallway towards the waiting room.
Now alone, Gohan hesitated. Then, in annoyance, he upturned a corner of his mouth and sent a puff of air upwards in an attempt to move a single lock of hair that always fell down over his forehead. Unfortunately, his hair didn't want to cooperate, and he just decided it wasn't worth it. He put a hand on the doorknob and let himself into the room.
In a hospital bed in the middle of the room was Son ChiChi. She looked exhausted, and was holding something in her arms. When her son entered the room, her face lit up. "Gohan, sweetie, I have someone I want you to meet."
Gohan tiptoed closer, knowing full well what was coming, but not knowing all the same. He stopped at the side of the bed and looked down at the little bundle in his mother's arms.
"Gohan...this is your new brother, Goten."
At first glance, for one crazy second, Gohan would have sworn that what his mother was holding was somehow his father. But it wasn't. It was a baby, with the famous Goku hairstyle, and two wide, curious, gray-black eyes that could have only come from one place. The child was looking around with a strange sort of fascination; he did not cry, and he seemed to be fully awake.
Without waiting for his reaction, ChiChi placed the baby in the arms of the new big brother. Gohan looked down at the chibi in something akin to awe. "Goten..."
Gurgling happily, the baby reached up—incredibly fast for one so small—and grabbed the lock of hair that always hung down over Gohan's forehead in a surprisingly tight grip. And then the baby pulled as hard as those tiny arms could.
Yelping in surprise and pain, Gohan nearly dropped the kid. He balanced the baby with one hand and reached up with the other in an attempt to free his hair from his brother's grasp. But the newest member of the Son family had an iron fist, and refused to let go of Gohan's forelock. He just giggled cheerfully while Gohan danced around.
Finally, he managed to free himself from the deadly grip, and immediately handed Goten back to their mother. "Ow...that hurt...uh, Mom, why don't you hold him for a while?"
ChiChi winced inwardly. Not the best way for these two to start off...
Gohan pulled the pillow down over his head as tightly as he could, but it was no use. That damn crying just wouldn't stop.
By day, Son Goten was a sweet, cheerful baby with an adorable one-month-old smile and giggles a-plenty. But by night, he changed. He transformed into a banshee, perpetually wailing for Gohan's soul. And the kid wouldn't stop unless someone comforted him. Even then, there was never a guarantee of a peaceful night.
The sound of ChiChi's voice was audible to Gohan's Saiyan-bred hearing. She was murmuring soothingly, and she sounded exhausted. Not surprising, considering that this was the third time Goten had started wailing in one night. It looked like poor ChiChi wasn't going to get any sleep.
Groaning, the teenager rolled out of bed and trudged across the room. He opened the door and wandered from his room into the living room. ChiChi was pacing back and forth, cradling the sobbing infant on her shoulder.
"Mom?" Gohan said softly.
She turned and looked at her old son through glazed, bloodshot eyes. "I'm sorry, sweetheart...you shouldn't be losing sleep over this...but he just won't stop crying..." Truth be told, she sounded about ready to break down and cry herself.
"Mom, I'll take him if you want," Gohan was almost surprised to hear himself say. "You need to go get some sleep, okay?"
ChiChi made as if to protest, but her son wouldn't hear any of it. Taking the wailing chibi, he shooed his mother off to bed. After her initial attempts at argument, ChiChi gave up without objection.
Gohan looked down at the crying chibi he now held. Well, genius, this was brilliant.
It wasn't that he didn't love his brother—he truly did. But it was so hard to let himself get close to or become attached to someone who so resembled the father they no longer had. Goten had Goku's coal-black eyes and Goku's messy hair, a surprising feat for a child only one month age.
And apparently, Goten also had Goku's lungs, judging from the volume of his screams.
The teenager sighed. He wanted to be close to his younger sibling, to be a good older brother, but his heart just wouldn't let him, not now. He was still in too many pieces. He hadn't let himself really get near anybody since his father's death; he'd actually been taking steps to subtly push everyone away. Even Piccolo was falling victim to Gohan's self-isolation, and the Namekian had noticed, though he had yet to do anything about it. Gohan was just too well walled in. If he didn't get close to anyone, then there was no chance that they could hurt him like he'd been hurt so many times in his life.
Goten began to cry even louder. Perhaps he could sense his older brother's distress. Or perhaps he was just becoming agitated because he brother was just staring off into space instead of paying attention to him. The sudden increase in volume called Gohan's attention back to the issue in front of him.
"Shh...calm down, little guy," Gohan whispered soothingly. "Let's go outside so we don't wake Mom up again, okay?"
A solid scream met his ears in a collision that left them ringing. He winced and headed out the front door into the darkness of the earliest morning hours. The night air was plenty cool, and the nearby trees moved only slightly with the tiny breeze that stirred through the night.
Gohan sat down in the middle of the front yard and held his little brother up so that they were face-to-face. "Hey squirt, why so blue?"
What happened next amazed him—Goten stopped crying; the chibi's tears vanished, and were replaced by a look of wonder and confusion. It wasn't at all unlike an expression that would have been completely at home on their father's face when someone was trying to explain to him the rules of a board game that he hadn't played before.
Not knowing what else to do, Gohan kept talking. "What's got ya so upset, kiddo? Mom needs her sleep, but you won't stop crying!"
To Gohan's surprise—and amusement—Goten actually started to giggle. "Oh, you think it's funny, do you? You know, you get to sleep whenever you want. We don't!"
More giggles, like music to Gohan's ears. Then the chibi let out an enormous yawn.
"That was a big yawn for a little guy," Gohan commented, pulling the infant forward so that Goten's head was pillowed on his shoulder. Figuring that the chibi couldn't understand a word he was saying, he decided it would be the perfect opportunity to tell someone exactly what was going through his head. "Goten, I really don't know what to do about you. You're so much like Dad...it almost kills me to even look at you sometimes. You're going to grow up just like him, I know it, but you'll never meet him. You'll never know our father, and you'll never really get to see what kind of a person he was. And it's my fault..."
Hot tears stung his eyes, and one escaped from behind his eyelids to slip slowly down his cheek. "I'm sorry, little brother. I really am. I'll take care of you, no matter what. But I can't let myself get close. That way, when you finally find out the truth, that I'm the reason Dad's gone, it won't be so bad if...when you decide you hate me, just like everyone else. I do love you, Goten, but I'm not sure if I should."
By the end of this speech, more bitter tears were freeing themselves from his eyes to run down his face. He'd thought Goten was asleep, since the chibi hadn't moved at all except for the occasional twitch.
But to his surprise, Goten lifted his head and landed a sloppy baby kiss right on Gohan's now-damp cheek. Having completed this sudden display of affection, the chibi giggled, and returned his head to its comfortable perch on Gohan shoulder. Gohan couldn't seem to get himself to move until after the infant's slow, steady breathing revealed that he was really asleep this time.
He...kissed...yuck, baby drool... Gohan thoughts wandered a tiny bit as he sat there, holding his little brother. There was indeed a very wet spot on his face now, the result of his younger brother's affections. And strangely, Gohan didn't mind at all.
He moved Goten again, slowly as so not to wake the child, so that instead of resting on his shoulder, the infant was cradled comfortably in his arms and his head was resting against Gohan's chest. Gohan looked down at the peaceful face of his adorable little brother, and smiled slightly to himself.
Maybe this'll work out after all.
It was strange, but after that night, Gohan and ChiChi were never again awakened from their slumber by the sound of a crying baby. For some reason, Goten could sleep through the night.
"Any luck?" ChiChi asked, poking her head through the door into the living room.
"Nope," Gohan sighed with a shake of the head. "He's standing up, but he just can't seem to take that first step. I don't know what it's gonna take. But hey—he's three months old, and he's already crawling and standing. I think that's something."
"True. He'll walk when he's ready," ChiChi stepped into the room and leaned against the wall, watching her two boys on the floor. Goten was standing on his chubby little legs, giggling his head off, with Gohan sitting cross-legged about three feet away, holding his arms out and speaking encouragements.
"Come on, Goten. You can do it," Gohan coaxed gently. "Come on. Just one step."
The chibi suddenly sat down hard, looked up at his big brother, and started laughing furiously.
ChiChi smiled affectionately. "Maybe it won't happen today."
"We've been saying that for nearly a week. He's standing, why can't he just put that foot forward and take that first step?" Gohan asked impatiently. "Man...waiting stinks."
"I know. Don't worry," ChiChi said reassuringly.
Gohan shrugged and turned his attention back to the cheerful Goten, who had gotten back on his feet and was wobbling back and forth in an attempt to stay balanced. Once again, the older boy held his arms out to try and coax the little one towards him.
Suddenly, Goten's face went blank, and his forehead creased in what appeared to be determination. He made a few little noises, and picked up one foot. ChiChi gasped and pointed, though it was really unnecessary; Gohan was on top of it.
"Come on, kiddo," he grinned. "Come on, Goten. Just take that step..."
Goten giggled—and took the step. Okay, scratch that. He charged his brother, falling forward into Gohan's outstretched arms, and knocking them both over in the process, the older boy being too startled to brace himself against his little brother's weight. Gohan ended up on his back, with an insanely-giggling chibi sitting on his stomach.
"Gohan! He did it!" ChiChi squealed; she dropped the towel she'd been holding and clapped her hands in delight.
Meanwhile, Gohan was still quite stunned. "Yeah...he did...strong kid..."
Goten did what he usually did—giggled at his older brother.
ChiChi crossed the room and picked her younger son up, allowing her older child the freedom to get back up. "Now let's see if we can get him to talk." She paused and thought about that for a moment, then shook her head sadly. "No. If he's like Goku in more than looks, then it might be a while before this kid starts talking."
"Mom!" Gohan, who had climbed to his feet, managed to look no little betrayed at his mother's comments regarding his father, even though he knew that what she said was absolutely true.
"What?" ChiChi replied innocently.
"Goodness, it's hard to believe that he was walking at only three months. I wonder when he'll start talking," Bulma commented cheerfully, watching the chibi toddle happily around the house; his spiky hair, the very same as his father's, bounced with every step he took. Goten was nearly a year old, and was as light-hearted a child as he had been on the day they brought him home. Trunks was sitting there, watching the younger boy with wide blue eyes. Goten toddled over, looked at Trunks for a minute, then hit him on the head. Trunks hit him right back, and the two chibis both fell over laughing. They were definitely going to be good friends.
"Hmm..." ChiChi sighed noncommittally. She also watched her younger son, but with a strange, distant look in her dark eyes.
Bulma snapped her fingers in front of the younger woman's face. "ChiChi? Hello?"
"What?" ChiChi shook her head as reality came back into her face.
"Welcome back," Bulma teased. "I was just saying that Goten's turning out a lot like his father. In more ways than one. He looks like him, he already has the personality...it's almost frightening."
"He adores his big brother," ChiChi replied. "And Gohan loves him right back, but Gohan is having a little more trouble dealing with it. He's still beating himself up over everything, and nothing seems to help at all."
"Just give him time. Gohan's a good kid. I'm sure he'll get over it eventually," Bulma advised as the front door opened and closed, and Gohan came staggering in. She looked him up and down. "Judging from the look of you, that was some intense sparring."
Gohan's gi was in a less than pristine condition, and he was covered in dirt and bruises. He was panting, but he managed a smile. "Hey mom, Bulma."
ChiChi was on her feet in an instant. "Young man, you'd better go clean up right now and make yourself presentable."
"Yes, ma'am!" Gohan jumped into a mock attention position and saluted, earning a nice glare from his mother. But before he could go anywhere, he was charged by two tiny blurs, knocking him over onto his back.
"Gohan!" Trunks chirped from the floor next to Gohan's head. Goten just giggled from his perch on his brother's stomach.
"Geez, are you trying to kill me or what?" Gohan replied good-naturedly. The two children were probably the brightest spots in his life, and they always brought out the best in him.
Goten giggled again, then smiled. "Go..."
Every adult in the room leaned forward as Goten struggled for a minute. "Go...Go...Gohan!" Having finally gotten that over with, the chibi began to laugh, and fell backwards, rolling right off his brother's stomach.
Gohan, still on his back, stared at his little brother in shock. "Mom...I'm his first word."
ChiChi didn't move; she just watched what was happening with tears in her dark eyes. "I know, Gohan. I know."
Gohan tried desperately to block out the voice, but it was in vain. No, there were beings far greater than him who wanted him awake, and they had sent a two-year-old child to carry out their wishes. A very stubborn two-year-old child by the name of Son Goten.
And Goten had a favorite manner of rousing his older brother from whatever stage of sleep he happened to be residing in.
Gohan should have seen it coming, but he didn't; he simply felt something land very hard on his stomach. As he grunted in slight pain, the burden began jumping up and down.
"Okay okay OKAY!" he reached up and grabbed Goten in mid-jump.
Not surprisingly, the chibi giggled insanely. "Big brother wake up!"
"I'm awake, squirt," Gohan groaned, rolling his eyes. "Why won't you let me sleep, kiddo?"
"Mommy said so," Goten replied cheerfully, flashing the trademark Son Grin.
"Of course," Gohan yawned. "Can you let me up?"
Goten laughed. "Brother silly!"
"Yeah, yeah," the fourteen-year-old muttered, pulling on a pair of jeans. "Come on, let's go eat."
"Uh-uh," the chibi whispered in an attempt to look sneaky.
Gohan looked at his brother for a moment before realization dawned. "You ate it all, didn't you?"
"Yup!" Goten blurted out proudly. Then he turned and was chased down to the kitchen by his older brother, who was feigning anger.
After a quick meal, the two boys headed outside. Goten was jumping up and down with excitement at what the day would bring—the previous week, they'd discovered some weird caves up in the mountains, and they were going to go explore them.
"Hurry!" Goten squealed, pulling fervently on his brother's arm, but Gohan just didn't feel like being rushed. In fact, the teenager purposely started dragging his feet. Finally, Goten jumped around behind his brother and began pushing on Gohan's back. "Brother! Faster!"
Gohan grinned, and let himself start to fall over backwards. "Oh no! The gravity is increasing on me! I can't stand up!" (AN: Yes, I borrowed this from "Lilo and Stitch", just because it was really cute. If you haven't seen the movie, you should. It's awesome. Put it this way—I cried.)
"Is not!" Goten yelled.
"Yes it is. The same thing happened yesterday," Gohan replied before resuming his mock-fall to the ground. Behind him, Goten was trying to both push him forward and keep him from falling on top of him. "I can't stay standing!"
Finally, Gohan fell over, and landed right on top of his brother.
"Brother!" Goten yelped. "Off!"
"What?" Gohan feigned confusion. "You want me to get off?"
"Yes!" the chibi screeched. With a chuckle, Gohan acquiesced. Goten immediately jumped to his feet and pouted up at his brother. "Meanie."
"Oh, I'm a meanie?" Gohan replied. "Then I guess you don't want me to take you out to explore those secret caves, do you?"
"No no no!" Goten yelled. "Go now!"
Still chuckling to himself, Gohan allowed himself to be dragged in the direction of the forest.
It wasn't far to the rocky area where the two brothers had discovered the dark caves. Luckily, Gohan had been wise enough to grab a flashlight on his way out the door, they had light. But Goten, still a young child with a young child's fear of the dark, clung to his older brother fiercely in spite of the light.
At one point, Gohan looked down at the chibi and asked, "Scared, squirt?"
"Why? We've got light."
"They won't come out with the light here."
"But they might," Goten looked up with wide eyes.
"Well, if they do, I'll chase them away. Okay?" Gohan asked, trying to hide his smile.
"I know," Goten said matter-of-factly. "I stay close so you keep monsters away."
It was a typical gathering at the Son residence with the old gang. Gohan, ChiChi, Bulma, Trunks, Krillen, a very pregnant Number Eighteen, Yamcha, Master Roshi, Oolong, Puar—even Piccolo and Vegeta were there, although the latter was doing his very best to remain completely anti-social. Goten was in bed, and Trunks was dozing off, curled up in a little ball on the floor.
Gohan was curled up quite comfortably in a chair by the living room door, only half thinking about the conversation floating around the room. His mind was more on the escapades of that afternoon, when he and his brother had gone exploring in those weird caves. A small smile came to his face when he thought of how Goten had screamed when he saw a shadow that looked like a skull; it had only been a rock caught in the glow of the flashlight, but the way Goten had spent the rest of the time in the cave clinging to Gohan's leg, one would have thought that the shadow on the wall was Cell reincarnate.
Still smiling, Gohan tried to refocus on the conversation. Bulma was telling an extremely amusing story about Vegeta falling into the pond in the Capsule Corporation gardens. No matter what kind of a mood a person might be in, it's pretty hard not to laugh at the thought of the stoic, dignified Vegeta picking himself up out of a shallow pool of water, dripping wet from the tip of his hair on downwards, pulling fake seaweed from out behind his ear.
As he laughed at the story, someone pulled on his sleeve. He turned to see Goten standing next to his chair. "What's up, squirt?"
Goten looked around quickly, then leaned forward and whispered one word. "Monsters."
"Monsters?" Gohan managed to look intrigued. "Again? Like earlier?"
"Uh-huh," Goten nodded fiercely. "Under my bed. You scare them away?"
"You want me to go scare them away?" Gohan repeated, barely masking his amusement.
"Okay," the teenager nodded. "You wait here, and I'll go scare those monsters away."
Everybody watched as Gohan strolled out of the room and down the hall into Goten's bedroom, and they all waited patiently for what was to come.
They weren't disappointed. Gohan's voice came drifting down the hall; he was speaking very loudly in a voice laden with authority. "Now listen up, you monsters! You'd better leave my little brother alone, or do you want to know what I'll do to you? Yeah, that's right! Run away, you cowards! And don't come back! That's right, get out of here and leave my little brother alone!"
The adults all stifled their laughter. Even Piccolo smirked at Gohan's antics. But Goten and Trunks (who had been woken up by the noise) were both listening to the speech with hero-worship written plainly in their eyes.
Seconds later, the teenager appeared back in the room.
Goten ran up and grabbed his brother's arms. "Did ya get them?" he demanded.
"Yup, I told them they'd better leave my little brother alone," Gohan declared proudly; his eyes danced mischievously. "And they ran away. They were nothing but scaredy-cats."
The two-year-old found this to be very funny. "Tuck me in?"
"Can do," Gohan scooped the giggling child up and made a second trip up to the bedroom, leaving a room full of laughing adults behind him. But he pretended not to notice. After all, wasn't it worth a little embarrassment to make Goten happy?
Gohan stared across the field at his opponent. Sweat ran down the sixteen-year-old's face and into his eyes, but ignored it. He licked his dry lips and focused on what was in front of him. More specifically, he focused on his contender's face. Even this far away, his sharp Saiyan-bred eyes could quite clearly see his adversary's expression.
A slight movement of the eyes to one side gave away his rival's next move, and when he struck, Gohan was ready. And to his opponent's surprise, the teenager dodged the attack and drove his knee hard into his adversary's stomach, basically ending the match.
"I think I win," Gohan said with a small laugh.
Piccolo groaned, rubbing his injured stomach, before glaring up at his former protege. "That was a cheap shot, kid, even for you. And yes, I'm being a sore loser."
Gohan just laughed and offered his old teacher a hand up.
Nearby, he could hear yelling and laughter. Namely, two young children.
"Yeah, Gohan!" Trunks was calling.
"Big brother won!" Goten exclaimed, jumping up and down with four-year-old excitement before running out onto the field for a hug. "Can you teach me to do that?"
"If it's okay with Mom, sure!" Gohan replied, finding himself amused.
"Yay!" Goten squealed, jumping up and down some more.
Trunks, who had joined them out on the field, smirked—dear gods, it was like looking at a miniature version of Vegeta! "My dad's teaching me. We practice in the weird room Mom made."
Gohan was surprised. "Vegeta's already training you?"
"Yeah," Trunks answered, and Gohan ended the conversation. After all, technically it wasn't really his business.
He returned his attention to Goten. "So you want to learn to fight, do you?"
"Uh-huh!" the chibi nodded enthusiastically. "Like you! With the funny lights and stuff!"
"We'll ask Mom." After all, she'd been hesitant to let her younger son go and even watch this. And this was just a sparring match!
"Yay!" Goten yelled again. Then the two chibis scurried off for parts unknown on whatever adventure they had planned for the day. And if Gohan knew them, whatever adventure that happened to be would undoubtedly end in trouble that Gohan would be pulling them out of by the scruff of the neck.
With the children gone, it was just Piccolo and Gohan left on the field where they'd been sparring. Piccolo, who by now had gotten back to his feet and was looking every inch his stoic, dignified self, spoke first. "He wants to learn to fight? Gods, he's turning out more like Goku every day."
"I know," Gohan replied, still looking towards the spot where Goten and Trunks had disappeared into the trees. "You should see him eat."
Piccolo actually chuckled. "I don't even want to know. You were bad enough, thanks." Then the Namekian grew serious. "Maybe I'm going to sound paranoid, but how are you holding up?"
Similarly, Gohan's smile faded, and his eyes took on a haunted look. "It's not easy, Piccolo. Gods, he's so much like Dad it's not even funny. Every time I look at him..." His voice trailed off.
"I know. It's that way for all of us," Piccolo pointed out.
"But all of you have to see a friend. I have to see a father that..." he only realized what he was saying and to whom he was saying it as the last two words popped out of his mouth. "...I killed."
He was rewarded by a smack on the back of the head, courtesy of his old teacher Piccolo. "Kid, we've been through this a million times. At least."
"I know, I know!" Gohan protested, knowing that any and all arguments he might try to use would fall on deaf ears—quite a feat, considering Namekian hearing. "But it's not getting any easier to deal with."
Piccolo wisely said nothing, but let Gohan continue.
"The gods must have a very ironic sense of humor, if not downright cruel," Gohan looked at the ground with eyes that seemed darker than usual. "They take my father away, and give me a little brother who might as well be a much younger version of my father." He sighed deeply, folding his arms. "I love my brother to death, but there's still that little part that doesn't want to get close to anything. It's not fair, Piccolo. It's just not fair."
"No," Piccolo replied, knowing full well that talking about it would make Gohan feel much better. "It's not fair. But it's life."
"Yeah, I know," Gohan answered. Sure enough, some of the haunted look had already vanished from his eyes. "Well, I'd better go find those two before they manage to blow something up. If this is the kind of trouble they make at four and five, I can't wait until they get older."
Another rare chuckle from Piccolo. "Let me know what kind of trouble they get into."
With that, student and teacher parted ways.
"Keep your left guard up, Goten," Gohan instructed as his little brother came at him slowly with basic punches and kicks. "Good, good. You're doing much better."
"Really?" Goten looked up hopefully. "I wanna be as good as you and Dad and Vegeta!"
"Well, it takes a whole lot of practice—"
"I know!" Goten said earnestly. "I can do it!"
"I believe you, squirt."
"But I'm tired now. Break," Goten declared, plopping down on the ground.
It took everything Gohan had to keep from falling over and laughing. Goten was so determined, but at the same time so very young. But it was because of his youth that Gohan refused to put his brother through a training regiment anywhere near the one he himself had gone through at that age.
"So what do you want to do now?" Gohan asked, even though he already was fairly certain of what the answer would be. As he asked, he took a seat on the ground next to his brother.
"I dunno," Goten shrugged, just as Gohan had expected him to do. But that was all right; a tiny idea had been slowly forming in the back of the teenager's mind for several days, and he decided that now was as good a time as any to try it out.
"Hey squirt, I have a thought," he began; Goten looked up sharply. "You remember that weird cloud? The Flying Nimbus?"
"That thing Dad used to fly on? Yeah," Goten replied, looking confused.
"Well, how would you like to take a ride on it?" Gohan asked. He said it casually, but the way Goten reacted, one would have thought that the child had been offered his own toy palace.
Goten was on his feet in an instant, jumping up and down, clapping his hands. "Yeah! Let's go!"
"Okay, okay, calm down, squirt," Gohan laughed, ruffling the child's hair affectionately before turning and cupping his hands around his mouth. "Come to me, Flying Nimbus!"
Seconds later, a strange little gold cloud screeched to a halt in front of Gohan. He jumped on and sat down cross-legged before holding out a hand to the chibi. "Ready?" Goten looked at it for a minute before looking up at his brother with suspicion dancing across his eyes. The older boy smiled, and made an offer. "You can sit on my lap if you want."
That decided Goten, and he clambered up onto the cloud, taking the promised seat in his brother's lap. The two boys shot off into the sky, leaving a trail of gold behind them.
Goten leaned over as far as he dared to look over the side of the cloud to the forest below. "Look, brother! There's the lake!"
Sure enough, there was a blue spot amidst the trees.
"And over there's the big dirt pile!" Gohan pointed out the big brown blotch on the ground. He knew full well that Goten would appreciate that particular landmark.
"Yay!" the chibi cheered happily. "And over there are the scary caves!"
Gohan rolled his eyes, knowing Goten wouldn't notice. Goten had stopped being afraid of those caves quite some time ago. He only pretended to be frightened in there because he knew his beloved big brother would come and protect him. It was almost a game between them.
And so the two brothers spent an afternoon viewing the world from a bird's-eye view, and Goten fell in love with flying. Someday, the chibi passionately vowed, he would learn to fly on his own.
Gohan merely laughed, knowing that it was probably true.
"But why?" Goten whined. "Why do you hafta go to school?"
"Because Mom says so, kiddo," Gohan sat down on the bed next to his brother and ruffled the child's hair. Goten was six now, and still adored his beloved big brother.
"Oh man, don't make Mom mad!" Goten warned seriously. The warning was definitely not necessary, though. Gohan had been dealing with his mother for nearly twelve years longer than his younger brother, as well as having seen his father interact with her, and the teenager knew that making his mother angry was certainly not conducive to maintaining his health.
"Will you go every day?" Goten asked suddenly, drawing the eighteen-year-old's rambling thoughts away from his mother and back to the conversation.
"Not quite. I'll be home on the weekend," Gohan replied.
"Oh. What's a weekend?"
"Saturdays and Sundays."
"Oh, okay. That's not so bad. How long do you hafta go for?"
"Only a few hours every day," Gohan answered, ever patient with his little brother's never-ending supply of questions. "I'll be home in plenty of time for us to play every night."
"That's good," Goten smiled. "But I still wish you didn't hafta go."
"Yeah, me too."
"Can I go too?"
"Call me crazy, but I don't think that would go over so well."
"Why does Mom want you to go?"
"Because she says I need to make friends with people my own age," Gohan said, letting himself fall backwards onto the quilt that covered the bed. "I would much rather stick around here with you and Piccolo and the guys, but I guess it's not going to happen. What Mom says, goes."
"Yeah, I know," Goten flopped down, letting his head rest comfortably on Gohan's shoulder. "Mom scares me sometimes, ya know?"
"Oh, believe me, I know," Gohan chuckled. "You should have seen her around Dad. Man, I don't know how he was always so happy when it seemed like everything he did made her mad."
"But you said Dad was always happy, no matter what," Goten pointed out.
"True," Gohan nodded, then looked pointedly at his brother. "You'd never believe how much you're like him, kiddo, unless you actually met him. You look like him, you talk like him, you act like him, you even eat like him. And you both have that fascination with everything."
"I love it when you tell me about Dad," Goten sighed happily. "Everybody liked him, right?"
"And I'm a lot like him, right?"
"Right..." Gohan had a sneaking suspicion as to where this was going.
"So...did I ever make anyone sad?" Goten rolled over and propped himself up on his elbow so he could look at the teenager's face. "Did anyone get sad because of me?" The chibi winced faintly, as if fearing what he might say.
Gohan just couldn't bring himself to tell the whole truth, that he had indeed been haunted by a child who so resembled the father he still believed he had killed. "Oh, Goten, we were all sad because Dad was gone. But then we got a very special present—you. You were the last thing Dad left us, and I think that you were sent to us because someone up there felt really bad about everything he put us through. You were a blessing, Goten, not a burden. We all love you to death, little bro."
"Really?" Goten asked, his wide eyes filled with hope.
"Really really," Gohan smiled.
"Good," the child smiled—gods, that smile again! "Now tell me more about school."
Home never looked so good, Gohan thought as the Flying Nimbus swooped down towards the little Capsule house. The wind blew through his hair in a most delightful manner.
It had been an extremely long day, to say the least. First the bankrobbers, then getting to school and meeting his classmates; then there was phys ed...that class had been a nightmare! And there was that girl, Videl. Gods, she made him nervous! First of all, she had somehow managed to perfect a death-glare that was far too similar to Vegeta's for comfort, and secondly, it was as if her eyes were going right through him, reading his very soul. It was a most unsettling feeling.
The little yellow cloud dipped down and stopped next to his front door. Gohan gathered his things and jumped off, and the Nimbus took off for parts unknown. Sometimes he wondered where exactly that cloud went when not in use.
Humming softly under his breath, he strolled to the front door, but paused with his hand an inch away from the doorknob. Slowly, he leaned forward and pressed his ear against the door. Inside, he could hear his brother whining, asking when his big brother was going to be home.
Gohan smiled and gripped the doorknob, making sure to rattle it a tiny bit before twisting it and pushing the door open.
"Gohan's home!" a young voice yelled, and the teenager braced himself for what he knew was coming. Sure enough, he was hit in the guy by a miniature tornado; the force the impact was enough to drive him back a few feet, out the door, and into the yard.
He wrapped his arms around the little bundle of energy. "Hey squirt! Have a good day?"
Goten looked up with a big smile. "Uh-huh! I caught a big lizard today!"
"Does he have a name?"
"I named him Fluffy," Goten replied, squirming a bit. "I missed you, big brother."
Gohan chuckled. "No you didn't. You hit me right in the gut! I think you broke my ribs!"
"That's not what I meant and you know it!" the chibi pouted.
"Tell you what," Gohan suggested, setting the child down. "What don't we go inside, and I'll tell you all about my day at school."
"Yay!" Goten exclaimed, running back into the house.
Gohan stayed where he was for a few seconds, letting his mind wander back to a time long ago, when he'd been in Goten's place: a child who wanted nothing more than to live life and explore the world. Unfortunately, his time in that place had been far shorter than his brother's, and the innocence that was so much a part of Goten's life was something Gohan really hadn't known since he was four years old.
With a reminiscent sigh, Gohan walked inside to spend time with his little brother, pulling the door closed behind him.