Disclaimer: Dragon Ball Z and all character names, and likenesses thereof are trademarks of Toei Animation and are property of the original author Akira Toriyama. Any other original character names, places, or overall storyline/plotlines are property of the author (meaning myself) Kerwin. Thanx for your support!

WARNING: For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym NCS, this stands for Non-Consensual Sex; in other words it means RAPE. Please be advised that I will not accept flames regarding any lack of warning. Thanx.

x-paragraph breaks
xxXXxx-scene change
ooo-Flashback/dream sequences

Nightmare's Beginning

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Somewhere deep inside me
I hold a picture of a time long gone
A time of ease and simple pleasures
And days in shadows not so long

Now with my mind I'm struggling
Holding on to what I believe
Listen to the fragments of my thoughts
That leave me broken and deceived

Sarah McLachlan-Trust

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Birds chirruped in the trees and smaller crawlers slinked along the shadows of the afternoon heat. The grass shifted as bugs scuttled to shade themselves against the rays of light that speared through the tall, loosely clumped trees. Gohan was just making his way through the woods carrying some firewood for the hearth. As he reached the petite house he gazed at the open, cloudless blue sky and wished his father was with him. He frowned and hung his head as the guilt assaulted him. 'It's my fault he's dead, if I hadn't let my power go to my head…He probably refused to come home because I betrayed him, and what he taught me...' Gohan's pity fest was interrupted by a wailing cry he recognized as his month old baby brother's. Gohan dropped the stack of dry wood by the side of the house and hurried inside to Goten.

x

Goten was lying on the floor screaming, obviously, about his discomfort and pain. Gohan could clearly see that Goten had fallen from the couch where his mother had undoubtedly set him down. Gohan felt anger tighten within his chest. How his mother could be so irresponsible and neglectful of Goten was beyond Gohan's comprehension. Ever since Goten's birth, Chi Chi walked around as if in a daze. She disregarded Goten completely; often she would let him cry, starving and wet, in his crib. Gohan found the care of his little brother solely his own responsibility. Scowling, Gohan picked up the screaming infant, calmed him and placed him in his crib, then went in search of his mother. Gohan didn't know whether to scream at her or just ignore her from fear of actually doing something he'd later regret.

x

Gohan didn't find Chi Chi in the kitchen-where Gohan had learned to cook quite a bit in the past month-or in her bedroom. As he passed the bathroom, Gohan stepped in a puddle of water that had leaked from under the door and almost slipped. Suddenly, he could hear the water running from behind the door, being too preoccupied by his anger before to notice. It only fueled his fury that his mother would take a bath, and leave Goten lying on the couch without anything to prevent him from falling.

x

Gohan banged on the door. There was no answer, not even a reprimand for pounding on the door. Gohan reach a point beyond caring if he saw his mother naked; she would answer his questions now. Gohan took a lock pick from his jeans-his own means to getting in locked rooms now that his strength was repressed-and inserted it into the door. When the lock clicked, Gohan shoved the door so hard that it made a riveting bang against the wall.

x

Gohan had a scowl set on his face, ready to yell at his mother, as he walked into the bathroom. The first glimpse of his mother silenced any words Gohan would speak for the next seven years. Sliding down the wall onto the soaked floor, Gohan simply stared in utter horror at the sight that would forever haunt his dreams, turning them into nightmares.


x

Chapter 1: Memories

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Hey you, see me, pictures crazy,
All the world I've seen before me passing by.
I've got, nothing, to gain, to lose,
All the world I've seen before me passing by...
Silent my voice, I've got no choice,
All the world I've seen before me passing by...

I don't feel it, anymore.
I don't sleep, anymore.
I don't eat, anymore.
I don't live, anymore.
I don't feel.

System of a Down-ATWA

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"...staring at nothing...say a word...selective mutism...traumatic..." the words were meaningless and dulled by the simple fact he did not care what they said. He couldn't remember what happened after he left the bathroom. He could dimly recall clutching Goten to him because the people who came had to pry the crying child from his arms. Gohan didn't know who they were or how they found him, but none of that was important now. He sort of shut down and stopped thinking all together.

"...shock...infant brother...unstable..." the voices continued.

x

Gohan dimly noted that he was in a bed with a curtain and that the walls were white. 'This must be a hospital or something.' Gohan deduced calmly. Sitting up slowly, Gohan blinked as if in a daze and stared bluntly at the nearest wall.

"Look, he's awake." a man in a white coat stated and came toward Gohan. The other man, dressed in a blue business suit, followed. "So, what's your name kid?"

"..." Gohan didn't even bother to look at the man who asked the question. 'I wonder where Goten is.'

"Son, we can't help you if you don't tell us your name." the man in the suit butted in, to the annoyance of the doctor.

"..."

"All right, we'll have to take him to social services; they have his brother in custody." blue suit man told the doctor sternly. Gohan was given his clothes and he changed mechanically. He was ordered to follow the suited man and did so wordlessly.

ooo

Gohan stared despondently out the window of the orphanage; he'd sat in the same position since the social worker dropped him off.

"Young man, dinner is ready, come to the table." the owner, a kind woman, tugged on Gohan's shirt-sleeve. Gohan turned away from the woman's plaintive order and continued to stare out the window. 'Why won't they leave me alone? Goten's gone, what more do they want from me?' The social worker explained to him how he couldn't be with Goten because most parents wanted babies and not pre-teens. Goten was snatched up like a prized colt at auction time while Gohan was shuffled into an overfull orphanage. He didn't care anymore, life was something to endure or give up on. Gohan was tired of fighting; he'd long since reached the stage of giving up.

ooo

Gohan felt the needle slide into his wrist, he lay in the hospital bed too feint to even protest. The doctor was shaking his head and muttering about Gohan's complete disregard for his health. Gohan could not make out the words, in fact; his vision was blurry and unfocused, a side effect of starvation he knew well. 'They'd think after five times of this shit that I want to die.' Gohan thought listlessly. He felt the familiar feeling that signaled he was going to lose consciousness and welcomed the blanket of darkness, any reprieve from life.

ooo

"I'm so sorry, I can't handle it anymore! He won't eat and I can't watch his self-destructive behavior any longer!" Gwendolyn, the kind orphanage owner, cried out. Gohan lay in the hospital bed having starved himself once again. He could hear Gwen protesting his return to the home; he was a bad influence on the other kids, no doubt.

"He needs professional help, help I can't give." Gwen's voice shook but there was no brooking her decision.

"We understand," the social worker answered calmly, "We'll move him to a facility that specializes in this sort of thing."

ooo

Gohan was surrounded by cold steel furniture and sterile walls. He wore a white uniform and slipper shoes without laces least he take it into his head to strangle himself with them. The door to his room opened and the orderly walked in. He was a buff man that dispensed medication to the patients and helped subdue those who went crazy. Gohan felt the chills race up his spine, 'Not again!' his mind screamed helplessly. The man smiled and laughed harshly as he approached Gohan.

"Miss me?" he smirked and groped at Gohan's clothes. Gohan closed his eyes and swallowed his whimper as the tears rolled down his cheeks.

"Mmm...yeah...uhn..uh..uh..."

ooo

"Well, he doesn't speak much, but he's well behaved." the social worker explained to the prospective parents. A pencil thin man wearing wire framed glasses and a smartly dressed woman of average proportion looked toward Gohan who wore a dark blue suit with a tie.

"What's you're name?" the man asked Gohan who was dwarfed by his seat looking far too thin and malnourished.

"..."

"His name is Sesshomaru, we call him Ru for short." the social worker supplied helpfully. Gohan looked on with eyes dulled of any feeling whatsoever. He ate now, not nearly enough for his saiyan appetite, but of his own will. The man and woman gave Sesshomaru dubious glances then stood as one.

"I'm sorry, but we really want a child more..."

"Open." the man supplied for his wife.

"I understand." the social worker replied with a sigh then shook the couples' hands and showed them out.

ooo

Gohan stood before the filthy door as the social worker frowned at the doorbell. It hung beside the door by its tangled wires. With a muffled groan she knocked on the wood that seemed covered in grime and wiped her hands on a handkerchief as they waited for an answer. A thin woman with graying hair tied in a bandana answered the door holding a broom in one hand.

"Hello, Mrs. Hiai, I'm Ms. Sukiyo. I called you earlier? This is Sesshomaru, your new boy." the social worker stated smiling graciously.

"Yes, please, do come in." the woman, Mrs. Hiai, invited after shaking hands with Ms. Sukiyo.

"Oh, sorry, but I have another client to see to. Say hello to Mr. Hiai for me?" Ms. Sukiyo politely declined. Gohan stepped in the house on Mrs. Hiai's insistence.

x

The living room had a small television and three boys sat around it as a person on the screen droned on about volcanoes. The three boys looked up when Gohan entered.

"Sesshomaru, this is Toshiro, Keitaro, and Rei." Mrs. Hiai introduced the three boys. They each nodded to him; Toshiro was undersized but had an intelligent glint to his eyes; Keitaro was over large but did not look particularly intimidating; and Rei looked average all around. Gohan nodded in return out of politeness' sake.

"You see that there program? It's a home school video; you'll be expected to watch it during the day." Mrs. Hiai explained with a nod at the TV.

ooo

Sesshomaru flinched as the fist flew and connected with his jaw causing his teeth to clash together with a sick grinding noise. Ru saw Toshiro and the other two boys cowering in the corner. Rei had a bloody nose and Toshiro was holding an injured wrist to his chest protectively. Keitaro had a bruised cheek and a tooth missing after trying to help Ru. It was obvious Hadrian Hiai was not going to settle for Sesshomaru's usual; Hadrian was drunk and that only enforced his special goal to make Gohan cry out in pain.

Gohan prevented all sound from escaping his lips though tears made wet streaks down his cheeks. Hadrian became frustrated and pummeled Ru with twice as much effort until his own knuckles bleed and Ru lay broken at his feet. Still lacking satisfaction, Hadrian grabbed a knife and dug into Sesshomaru with vengeful abandon as the others looked on in horror...


IMPORTANT! This next part takes place where Gohan is sixteen, the last chapter contained flashes of memory from those years since Chi Chi died. Now, we go to regular time but there will be flashbacks/memories littered throughout.

Chapter 2: Dream

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I linger in the doorway
Of alarm clock screaming
Monsters calling my name
Let me stay
Where the wind will whisper to me
Where the raindrops
As they're falling tell a story

In my field of paper flowers
And candy clouds of lullaby
I lie inside myself for hours
And watch my purple sky fly over me

Don't say I'm out of touch
With this rampant chaos-your reality
I know well what lies beyond my sleeping refuge
The nightmare I built my own world to escape

In my field of paper flowers
And candy clouds of lullaby
I lie inside myself for hours
And watch my purple sky fly over me

Swallowed up in the sound of my screaming
Cannot cease for the fear of silent nights
Oh how I long for the deep sleep dreaming
The goddess of imaginary light

Evanescence-Imaginary (Origin)

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Gohan could feel the warm bed beneath him and the floating sensation he instantly recognized as drug induced. He knew not how long he'd been here; he knew only of various times waking to pain and being drugged again. Gohan could feel the first twinges that signaled the medication was wearing off, but no one came in. No doctors in white lab coats offered him that black velvet, silky silent escape from living. Gohan closed his eyes, determined to sleep before the drugs wore off completely.

ooo

The door down stairs slammed as if by the force of a gale wind. Gohan felt Toshiro shiver through the covers of the bed they shared. Keitaro and Rei slept in the bed beside theirs. Gohan could see the whites of their, Keitaro's and Rei's, eyes peering out from their covers in the dark room. The four boys waited with baited breath for the verdict to come.

"Ru! Get your ass down here!" The bellow could be heard throughout the whole house; Gohan swore it echoed in their attic room.

"You don't have to go, maybe he'll pass out?" Rei commented hopefully. Gohan pulled the covers back and swung his badly bruised legs, souvenirs of his last encounter with Hadrian, over the side of the bed.

"Yeah, just stay here." Keitaro agreed following Gohan's movements with his eyes. Gohan shook his head and snatched up a pair of tattered jeans that he quickly pulled on in the fear chilled air.

"Ru, it's not fair, he always picks on you!" Toshiro whispered hoarsely as tears leaked from his eyes. Gohan could hear the relief in the small boy's voice, it wouldn't be him, though the boy tried to mask it.

"Ru, don't go." Keitaro ordered. Gohan shook his head again and motioned to the door. They knew what he tried to communicate without words. If Gohan didn't go down then Hadrian would come up and it wouldn't just be Gohan on the receiving end of his temper.

"I'll, I'll c-come with you." Keitaro stuttered in obvious fear and made to get up. Gohan shook his head vehemently and gently pushed Keitaro back into bed.

"Ru, don't make me come up there!"

x

Gohan slipped silently out the crack he made opening the door, as if by allowing the door to open fully he would be inviting the devil himself into the room. Quickly as a wraith he made his way down the stairs. The boards creaked and groaned despite his light weight and attempts to walk carefully and near the wall.

"I hear you tip toeing down the stairs; you must know what you've done if you're sneaking like the guilty." Hadrian laughed caustically. 'Yeah right; He has no reason and he knows it. He makes those reasons up, all of us know that.' Gohan could see the silhouette at the bottom of the stairs and the looming shadow the figure cast on the wall.

"Come here." Hadrian snarled, reaching out a hand for emphasis. The demonic specter on the wall reached out a shadowy appendage toward Gohan's neck. Gohan glared angrily and, just to spite the loathsome man, continued down the stairs slower than he'd gone before.

"Don't give me that damn look! You're no better than me, you little bastard!" Hadrian sneered grotesquely.

x

The moment Gohan was within grabbing distance, Hadrian roughly lay hold of Gohan's neck and pulled forward. Gohan lost his purchase on the steps and felt himself fall forward. Hadrian let go so that Gohan lost his balance completely, and was left grasping at empty atmosphere. Gohan felt the jarring impact and heard the sickening snap of his right arm as he fell the last three steps and tried to catch himself with his arms. From long habit, Gohan ignored the pain and instinctively threw himself sideways before Hadrian could kick him.

"Quick little shit aren't you?" Hadrian did not sound complimentary.

x

Hadrian stalked Gohan as he tried to scramble away from the large brute. Then, in a fast move inconsistent to his size, he seized Gohan's left leg and dragged him into the living room. Gohan kicked out with his other leg and caught Hadrian squarely in the gut. With a soft oof! and a muffled curse Hadrian twisted Gohan's foot mercilessly. Gohan felt tears prick his eyes but, he stifled his cry by biting his lip. As his teeth punctured the soft skin of his bottom lip, coppery blood assaulted his tongue. Strangely, the familiar sensation and taste of blood in his mouth calmed his fears. 'There's nothing he can do to me that hasn't been done before by some evil villain, human or otherwise.'

x

Hadrian fisted his hand and slammed it into Gohan's left cheek. Gohan's head was knocked back and hit the floor with a resounding thud that left Gohan's ears ringing. The edges of his vision wavered and Gohan felt a stab of pain from his lip as he couldn't help but smile. 'I've won; he'll knock me unconscious soon.' Hadrian spotted his smile and roared in outrage.

"Don't you smirk at me, you ungrateful wretch!" Hadrian snatched Gohan's broken arm and jerked it roughly. Gohan winced and more tears escaped his eyes as pain like a fire engulfed his arm. 'I won't scream, I won't scream, I won't scream.' the mantra kept his mouth firmly closed and all sound imprisoned within him. Hadrian was clearly frustrated with this broken but unbreakable boy before him. Yanking Gohan's arm a second time produced only a repeat of the previous time and nothing else. Hadrian swore at Gohan ceaselessly and punched him multiple times in hopes of beating the boy into submission. The other boys cowered and broke easily but this boy was different, he fought back. Maybe Gohan didn't fight physically but he did so mentally, that was what drove Hadrian over the edge. After not so much as an overly audible gasp, Hadrian punched Gohan again, only this time the floor made itself acquainted with Gohan quite forcefully.

ooo

Gohan's eyes snapped open in a brightly lit room. The sounds of his fast beating heart and harsh breathing occupied his mind completely. Slowly, other sounds insinuated themselves into his awareness, a low murmuring and the impression of people walking by. His bed sheets were twisted around his legs and his body was drenched in sweat. A quick look around proved the room to be vacant with the exception of himself. 'It was only a dream, Gohan, calm down.' he ordered himself. Gohan swiped a trembling hand across his clammy forehead and gave the room a more thorough examination after his first cursory glance.

x

He was situated in a bed that had its curtains drawn back to allow sun from the windows nearby to bath him in its warmth. His right arm was in a sort of plastic cast with velcro straps and his left leg was encased in a plaster cast from below the knee down. There were three other beds with curtains, but no one occupied those. There were identical dressers and chairs situated beside each bed too. There were windows on one wall (the one closest to Gohan) and a side door that Gohan figured led to a wash room. The remaining wall featured a door that supposedly led out of the room. Gohan sat up slowly feeling sharp pains in his chest, and a bit light headed. Everything in his body ached in protest, but Gohan ignored the pain. 'Let's see where the hell I am.' Gohan thought and began untangling the sheets from his legs.


Chapter 3: The Hashukos

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I was a long lost soul
I was a burnt out case
I felt my heart grow old
I wore a stranger's face

I built a wall so high
I built a gulf so wide
I saw my life go by
On the other side

I wasn't looking for a miracle
Just hoping for relief
But you gave me something
Something to believe

Lee Ann Womack-I Saw Your Light

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Gohan was sweating profusely by the time he reached the bathroom, clutching to his chest clothes he'd found in the dresser beside his bed. Having been severely underweight for years now, a long ('How long?') period being bedridden greatly depleted what little strength he had. He entered the washroom intent on cleaning up a bit. When Gohan caught sight of himself in the mirror he grimaced at his reflection. Where once there had been a vibrant, strong, full bodied saiyan boy with a childish glint of mischief in his eyes there now stood a pathetic, weak, frail wretch of a teenager whose eyes showed any who looked into them that he already had one foot in the grave and the other soon to follow.

x

His hair had grown long past his shoulders, but it was limp and tangled after tossing and turning in a hospital bed. His forehead, cheekbones, and jaw stuck out in sharp relief, a distinctive contrast to his sunken cheeks and eyes. His skin was pale with too many days locked within the hell-hole social workers dared to call a "home". His skin was like a thin covering over his well defined bones giving him a fragile, skeletal look as if any small pressure might break him.

x

Gohan sighed mentally and made short work of bathing himself with a sponge he found in the basin. Then, he dressed himself with the extreme care of the injured in the black sweat pants and dark blue turtleneck he'd found in the dresser. Gohan hobbled toward the door of the bathroom with a feeling of rejuvenation now that he was clean. Before he left, though, he spotted a closet, and a peek inside proved advantageous. He came out with a stand on wheels, the type used to hang IV drips on, that he could use to walk. Gohan made his way to the door but stopped short when he heard voices just on the other side.

"Mr. and Mrs. Hashuko, I cannot express how grateful we are for the time you took to see us. I am required to inform you of exactly what you're getting yourselves into. Sesshomaru is no ordinary orphan." a deep male voice was saying.

"We know that; that is why we'd like to take him. He needs someone he can depend on without having to think about it." another man, Mr. Hashuko Gohan presumed, replied.

"Sesshomaru is...how should I say this? To be blunt, Sesshomaru has been beaten so badly that he'll need several correctional surgeries performed on his arm and leg to restore them to normal. Not only that, but we've found evidence that he has been sexually molested. His mutism is self-induced and he hasn't broken his silence in six years. Quite frankly, we don't know if he'll ever grow to trust anyone; or even if he can form any semblance to a normal relationship with anyone." the doctor explained despondently.

"That doesn't mean we shouldn't try!" A woman's voice cried out, Mrs. Hashuko's, no doubt. "With all the people surrounding him giving up on him there's no doubt why he doesn't reach out to anyone!"

"Mrs. Hashuko, I'm not..."

"No, you listen here you over-certified pessimist. We're going to take this boy and give him a home no matter how much you warn us or try to convince us otherwise! Now, show him to us this instant that we may take him home as soon as possible." Gohan was astonished to hear the fervor with which she rebuked the doctor. 'She sounds like mother...I wouldn't want to get on her bad side.'

"Mr. Hashuko..." the doctor started but stopped, giving Gohan the impression that someone motioned him to do so.

"Dr. Nakamura, you heard her, let's see our Sesshomaru." Gohan could hear the humor in Mr. Hashuko's voice. 'Maybe, maybe they'll be ok.' Gohan felt a momentary flutter of hope that was quickly replaced by mortification when the door opened to reveal Dr. Nakamura in his white coat, and the Hashukos.

x

"You must be Sesshomaru; I've been looking forward to meeting you. My husband and I have offered to bring you home with us, would that please you?" Mrs. Hashuko looked for all the world like she found invalids behind hospital doors on a regular basis.

"Sorry for my wife's lack of manners, I'm Mr. Hashuko but, you can call me Koriyo. This exquisite and malicious lady beside me (Mrs. Hashuko elbowed her husband and glared), see what I mean, is Mrs. Hashuko." Mr. Hashuko smiled when his wife pouted at him and held out a hand to Gohan. 'They seem pretty normal; maybe it's time to move on and actually live.' Gohan thought, ignoring the small voice in the back of his mind saying, 'You killed them, Gohan, your father and mother. You're nothing but a worthless wretch. You lost Goten. It's your entire fault what happened at the institution...' Gohan looked at the anxious and eager expressions on Mr. Hashuko's and Mrs. Hashuko's face respectively. Then he looked at Dr. Nakamura's cynical twist of lips and, just to shock the man, grasped Mr. Hashuko's hand firmly and gave him a trace of a smile. Gohan was justly rewarded by Dr. Nakamura's flabbergasted expression and identical looks of hope from Mr. and Mrs. Hashuko.

"I guess that settles it. Let's get his paperwork done and set up appointments for the surgeries. Then, we'll take him home." Mr. Hashuko decided and put a hand lightly on Gohan's shoulder. Gohan stiffened in reaction but did not move away, Mr. Hashuko took heart from this and kept his hand there in support, and soon Gohan felt himself relax.

xxXXxx

Gohan felt trepidation as the van pulled up into the driveway of a small middle class house. It resembled one of those clichéd houses: white picket fence, trim in blue, shiny glass windows, and toys in the yard. Gohan saw a head of tousled brown hair and blonde pigtails as he exited the car and approached the fence-gate.

"Welcome home, Sesshomaru." Mr. Hashuko said and threw an arm out to encompass the house and yard.

"Daddy? Daddy's home!" A small voice piped from within the yard and the brown haired head made quick progress to the gate. Mr. Hashuko opened the entry for the small boy and lifted him in his arms as he giggled happily.

"Hello daddy." the petite blond said formally from just inside the gate.

"Well, we might as well start the introductions. Sesshomaru, this is Makoto and Kumiko, if I'm not mistaken?" Mr. Hashuko said motioning to the boy and girl respectively.

"Yes, Kyoko is in the house." Kumiko stated timidly.

"Is this our new brother?" Makoto asked curiously at Gohan.

"Yes, his name is Sesshomaru, Ru for short."

x

The group walked up the porch steps and entered the house. The first thing Gohan noticed were crudely drawn pictures hanging along the wall. That was a sure sign that this house was a home.

"Koriyo, Yuriko, is that you?" A teenaged girl walked in bouncing a tearful girl on her hip that looked the spitting image of Kumiko. 'They must be twins.' Gohan met the eyes of the girl and looked away shamefully. Kyoko was handed to Mrs. Hashuko and Miya's attention turned to the thin boy beside her foster parents.

"Miya, this is Sesshomaru, he'll be staying with us now." Mrs. Hashuko, Yuriko, informed the teenaged girl while smiling encouragingly at Gohan.

"Hi, would you like to be called Sesshomaru, or is there a nick name you'd prefer?" Miya asked inquisitively. Gohan felt overwhelmed at the open acceptance and looked to Koriyo helplessly.

"Ah, Ru is fine, right Sesshomaru?" Gohan nodded.

"What, don't tell me you're that shy!" Miya giggled and slapped Gohan on his left arm playfully. Gohan jerked back like she'd slapped him full in the face, something Mrs. Hiai used to do often enough when she got it into her head to blame the foster boys for her own husband's drunkenness.

"Miya, no!" Mrs. Hashuko cried out as Mr. Hashuko went to Gohan to reassure him. Gohan had backed away to the furthest corner of the room in utter terror. He couldn't explain or prevent this reaction though he knew full well in his mind that Miya did not mean to beat him. Miya backed away and looked scared by Gohan's reaction.

"I, I didn't mean to do anything! What did I do? What happened to him?"

"Sesshomaru doesn't speak, Miya, he's mute. He has some problems he needs help with, and we're going to help him." Mrs. Hashuko's voice was composed but, tears began to form in Miya's eyes.

"I'm sorry!" she muttered hoarsely and turned to leave the room. Gohan had managed to calm himself enough to reach out a hand and touch Miya's shoulder. Turning, eyes brimming with tears, toward Gohan, Miya looked questioningly at him. He offered her a tentative smile and in return she gave her own watery curve of lips.

"There, see? No harm done." Mr. Hashuko said smiling.


NOTE: There is a flashback of the Cell Games in this and there is ALTERNATE UNIVERSE, or differences between this and the actual episodes!

Chapter 4: Pills

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I'm feelin' weak and weary walkin' through this world alone
Everything you say, every word of it, cuts me to the bone (And I believe)
I've got something to say, but now I've got no where to turn
It feels like I've been buried underneath all the weight of the world
I try to hold this under control
They can't help me 'cause no one knows...

I'm blind and shakin', bound and breakin'
I hope I make it through all these changes

3 Doors Down-Changes

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Gohan sat in his room, his room, he didn't have to share! There was another bed in the room should the Hashukos foster another boy his age but that was neither here nor there. For now, Gohan was enjoying the solitude the room offered. Lying on the bed he studied the small pill container he held in his hand. There were several other containers of similar shape and size littering his dresser but this one was special, or rather more specifically part of his present state of being than the others.

ooo

Gohan felt his power coursing through him as he held the kamehameha blast on Cell. He could hear nothing but the blood rushing to his head and Cell's incessant taunting. 'Father! I didn't mean to kill you! This is all my fault; father, Trunks, and Vegeta. If I had killed Cell when dad told me to none of this would have happened!' As Gohan tormented himself with blame and guilt, Cell acquired the upper hand in the ensuing battle.

"What's wrong, Gohan? Give it up already! The sooner you stop deluding yourself and surrender, the sooner I can put you and this pathetic planet out of its tortured existence."

Cell gave another one of his grating laughs that got on Gohan's every nerve and Gohan felt something snap.

Angry...

Raging...

Furious...

Fuming...Boiling...Seething power erupted from within and Gohan let out a blood curdling scream that rent the air, pitching over even the roaring of the kamehameha waves. His mind lost coherency as the power took complete control. Any concern he would have had for his friends was drowned out by his power's need to end the pain. It was as if by ending Cell, Gohan could escape his guilt, shame, and feeling of loss. Gohan could not relinquish such a promise of peace and surrendered himself to the blinding force begging for release, no, he embraced it. And, insanity reigned.

ooo

Gohan shuddered at the memory as it replayed in his mind. Even now he could not recall just what happened after he lost control, but Piccolo, Krillin, Tien, and Yamcha had plenty to say and none of it good. When he'd finally come to his senses the match with Cell had been long finished and a whole month had passed. Gohan could not remember the month after the Cell Games no matter how hard he tried and wracked his brain. The horror stories about him attacking all his friends came to Gohan as if from another life time; or as mere stories, completely unrelated to him personally. He could remember waking up, though, as if it happened mere hours before and not years.

ooo

Gohan felt feint and weaker then he'd ever felt before in his life with the exception of the time Recoome beat him catatonic. Looking around he recognized the room he was in; he often stayed in the guest rooms at Capsule Corp when he visited Bulma with his dad. The reminder of his father brought a grieving expression to his face. 'What have I done? What happened; did I beat Cell?' The random questions vied for his undivided attention and no matter how hard he tried he could not seem to remember anything after he felt that raging power manifested itself inside him.

x

Deciding it would do no good toward answering his questions to lie in bed all day, he prepared to get up. Sitting up felt like a feat in itself and gravity felt awfully heavy on his shoulders. Bemoaning his body's seemingly abused state, Gohan quit his bed and stood like an old man with a bad back. 'What's happened to me?' Gohan felt the premature stirrings of panic but squelched them in favor of finding someone to question about these mysterious occurrences.

x

With the inborn instincts of the Saiyan species, Gohan's first place of search was the kitchen as it was mid-afternoon, lunch time. There he was unsurprised to see the assorted group of Z senshi gathered around the table including Bulma, chibi Trunks and even his mother. Only Piccolo and Android 18 stood apart from the rest, having no need to eat to sustain life. On the other extreme Vegeta and Mirai Trunks ate like there wasn't enough food, or enough time, and repulsed their human counterparts. As Gohan stood in the doorway watching with avid interest the many quirks of his friends in repose, an arbitrary glance his way brought Krillin to his guard.

"Gohan!" Krillin shouted in alarm. The shout served as a catalyst and in mere seconds every fighter was standing in their fighting stances with their powers at full. Bulma, Chi Chi and chibi Trunks were hurried from the room by Yamcha. Gohan was too stunned to react and only experienced further disorientation when the very aura of Vegeta's and Mirai Trunk's power sent him careening back out the doorway until he was slammed indignantly and ever so painfully into the couch.

"What's going on?" Gohan asked in a tremulous voice as his mind struggled to comprehend the excruciating pain in his lower back where it had made impact against the couch. 'I shouldn't be feeling so much pain from such a small injury! Why are they attacking me?' His mind was screaming and he felt like curling into a tight ball to sob out his frustrations.

"Gohan? Is that really you?" Krillin stepped toward Gohan hesitantly.

"Of course it's me, who else would I be?" Gohan managed to croak around the lump in his throat. He suppressed the tears that threatened to spill forth through pure will-power.

"Gohan, you're back!" Krillin rushed forward and pulled Gohan into a hug. Seeing nothing to prompt the continued standoff, the others dropped out of their own fighting stances as well.

"Looks like it worked, Bulma." Yamcha commented as he smiled and ruffled Gohan's hair. Gohan jerked away from Krillin's embrace and Yamcha's condescending gesture, looking at them all with wounded eyes.

"What's going on; why'd you attack me? Why am I so weak?" Gohan implored as his eyes were pleading for truthful answers.

xxXXxx

"You're saying that I killed Cell and then attacked Piccolo, and the others?" Gohan stared down at his hands which he gripped tightly together.

"If it wasn't for Vegeta knocking you out, we'd all be in the next dimension." Tien said bluntly. If it was possible, Gohan sunk lower into the couch and ducked his head until his fringe of hair completely blocked his face from view. The color had drained entirely from his face as his shame was complete.

"Well, you didn't. Besides, it wasn't exactly an intelligent decision on Goku's part to place you in that situation." Yamcha tried to reassure him, but at the mention of his father's name Gohan felt nausea claw its way up his throat. Swallowing the acidic bile, Gohan ventured another question.

"What about the dragon balls?"

"Oh, Gohan, Goku...Goku decided to stay in heaven." Bulma said compassionately and went to place an arm around Gohan's shoulders. Gohan avoided the gesture and ruthlessly clamped down on the sob in his throat. No wonder his mother wouldn't look at him and refused to stay during the discussion.

"He thought he was the cause..." Piccolo began to say but Gohan's mind was too preoccupied to process both what Piccolo was saying and what his mind was thinking. No matter what his father had said to the others Gohan knew why he really stayed in heaven. 'He hates you; it's your fault he's dead. Why would he want to come back when you're what he has to come home to? A traitorous son is worse than no son at all...'

"Gohan!" Gohan was snapped out of his stupor of self incrimination by Krillin's shout.

x

"Why am I so weak?" Gohan asked before Krillin could try to convince him that it wasn't his fault even though he knew it was. The others exchanged glances which communicated more than words. Gohan felt his body tighten in dread at the ominous silence that followed this question.

"The on'na made a pill that keeps all your ki locked up." Vegeta muttered without preamble.

"Why would my ki need to be 'locked up'?" Gohan turned to Vegeta for the answer as he was the only one willing to say what the others wouldn't. This time, however Vegeta just snorted and remained silent.

"When...When you woke up...that first time, right after the fight with Cell you...you were different. It was like you were...in a coma; your eyes were dull, lifeless. Every time you woke you'd turn super saiyan and attack us." Mirai Trunks' eyes glazed over as if he was seeing something other than the living room at Capsule Corp. "We had to sedate you. Mom and Gramps started researching a way to suppress your ki...all control was gone." Mirai Trunks tried to justify the necessity for the tranquilizer, "You've been out a month now. Everything we came up with failed in the practical assessment, until now." Mirai finished vaguely.

"Are you saying that every time you tested the drugs on me, I went berserk when it didn't work? That I attacked you guys at super saiyan?" Gohan asked for clarification though it looked like they would prefer him to be ignorant of the details.

"Yes." Yamcha dejectedly agreed.

"So, I need to take these pills or I'll start attacking innocent people?"

"Yes, you probably feel like a full human now. The pills should even repress your saiyan hunger, and I've even written down the ingredients so you can get them made anywhere you are." Bulma explained to Gohan.

"So, this is it then? This is how I have to live from now on?" Gohan couldn't help drawing his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them in an attempt to console himself. It was a futile endeavor.

ooo

Gohan closed his eyes in anguish as memories of the conversations that followed that one filled his mind. He extracted quite a bit of information from Piccolo, Tien, and Vegeta about the cruelty he'd caused them, and there was nothing praiseworthy. Mirai Trunks had left soon after he woke and the danger had passed, before Gohan could get any specifics from him. Krillin and Yamcha refused point blank to tell him anything, preferring not to cause him any anguish over something he couldn't control.

x

'It was my ki; I was supposed to control it. I didn't need their pity.' the familiar concept encroached on his thoughts. Gohan shoved it back into the dusty recesses of his mind. Unconsciously he'd fisted his hand holding the bottle containing those very same ki restraining pills; granted the ones in the bottle now were newly made by the hospital. As he contemplated the pills that allowed him to be mistreated for the last six years he debated throwing them down the toilet. 'If I go crazy at least I won't have to think; I won't have to remember...anything.' his mind rationalized. Then sighing in defeat he removed a pill and swallowed it dry.


Chapter 5: High School

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I love the way I feel today
But how I know the sun will fade
Darker days seem to be
What will always live in me

Alter Bridge-Open Your Eyes

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Gohan stood outside Orange Star High School with a feeling of apprehension. Koriyo stepped from the car, and stood by Gohan, also surveying the school.

"You'll be fine Sesshomaru, I'm told this is an excellent school and Miya concurs. If you want, I could come with you?" Koriyo offered with a sideways glance. Gohan simply shook his head and, shouldering his backpack on his undamaged left arm, slowly made his way into the building. Not once did he look back for reassurance or even a kind farewell.

xxXXxx

Videl was bored out of her mind. Sharpner and Erasa were arguing about something Videl did not have the patience to even be curious about. Everyone else was standing or sitting around talking to each other. Mr. Akiro was not in class yet; and Videl started wondering why he was late. As if summoned by her thoughts, the door opened and Mr. Akiro walked in. Students quickly took their seats as the teacher made his way to his desk.

"Class, we have a new student. His name is Hashuko Sesshomaru," aside to Ru he said, "that's your cue boy."

x

Videl watched the open door with interest and was stunned by the boy who entered. He had long black hair, tied back with a leather string, and obsidian eyes. What was stunning, though, was the way his eyes were sunk in a very gaunt face with the sharpest cheekbones Videl had ever seen. His black turtleneck sweater and jeans hung on his frame like an outsized tent excepting where they covered a cast on an arm and leg.

"Take any seat, son." Mr. Akiro ordered Sesshomaru. The boy gave a small nod and slowly made his way to the empty seat by Erasa. Videl noticed the unevenness in Ru's gait and guessed he was limping because of the cast on his leg (Gohan refuses to use crutches).

"That boy's gonna sit by me! Look at him; he looks like the walking dead in that new zombie movie!" Erase squeaked fearfully.

"He gives me the creeps." Sharpner commented, disgusted. They both quickly shut up when Ru took the vacant seat next to Erasa. With the boy closer up, Videl took particular notice of his hands, long fingered with the bones clearly defined through the thin, almost transparent, skin. Blue veins could be seen like spiders' webs spreading under the skin of his hands.

xxXXxx

Gohan walked into the room feeling more nervous than anything else. When he was introduced and directed to take a seat, he noted the scared blond girl and the leering blond jock. Between the two sat a black haired girl who stared at him in a calculating manner. Gohan walked up to his seat and looked at each person in turn, not meeting their eyes, before dismissing them completely. Truthfully, Gohan wasn't in the mood to attend classes, but Dr. Nakamura told Koriyo that it would be beneficial for Ru to get into a routine. Gohan could understand the Hashukos' wish that he graduate high school, but had the decision been left up to him he'd have at least waited until his body had healed completely.

x

He felt a twinge in his arm accompanied by a spasm of pain; his meds were obviously wearing off from last night. He felt self-conscious with everyone staring at him; even Mr. Akiro had stared at him in the hall on the way to class. After around twenty minutes the curious eyes eventually made their way to the board where Mr. Akiro explained the fundamentals of calculus. However, every few minutes a student would sneak another peek at the 'freak' in class. Ignoring everyone, Gohan carefully laid his right arm on his desk and began taking notes with his left hand. After having one arm or another broken at any given time of the month, Gohan developed a certain ambidexterity with regards to writing. Now if only he could take notes on something less droll he'd be set.

x

Gohan already knew the information Mr. Akiro was lecturing on, so it was no surprise his mind wandered. 'Why do they insist I go to school? I could just take a competency test and prove to them that I don't need this. What a waste of time! I guess it's better than being knocked around by Hadrian...' Gohan stopped that train of thought before it could derail itself in a flashback. Gohan tried to focus on Mr. Akiro instead; he leaned his head against his fisted hand.

"...derivative of x squared minus three is two x..."

ooo

Gohan's eyes flew open when he felt large hands gripping him by the collar and dragging him out of bed. He was pulled down to the floor, blankets and all, until his head thumped dully against the sideboard of the bed. Gohan was face to face with Hadrian whose blood shot eyes looked demonic in the half dark twilight before dawn. The smell of stale beer, putrid sweat, and other unsavory things made their way to Gohan's nostrils making his nose wrinkle in distaste.

"You know what you've done you little shit?" Hadrian's eyes were wide and unfocused; spittle escaped his mouth as he demanded an answer. When Gohan just stared wordlessly back Hadrian's mouth twisted into a scowl and he shook Gohan forcibly by the shoulders. Gohan clenched his teeth for fear of biting his tongue as he felt like his neck would separate from his spine.

"Do you know what I found down stairs in the middle of the floor?" Hadrian seemed to think Gohan needed the question rephrased. Gohan tried to look as innocent as he truly was and shook his head despite the rattling jolts caused by Hadrian's continued wrenching of his shoulders.

"I found your god-damned shoes in the middle of the fucking floor! If I've told you boys once, I've told you a million times; your shoes go in the damn closet. I guess you need some hard persuasion to help you remember." Hadrian growled lowly.

x

Gohan heard a strangled whimper from Rei who shoved a fist in his mouth to muffle it. Gohan knew then that the shoes in the living room were indeed there, only Hadrian assumed the wrong culprit, and the other boys knew also. Gohan had enough time to wonder vaguely at Hadrian's ability to not slur when drunk and his impeccable timing before Hadrian began dragging him out of the room by the scruff of his neck. A fleeting glance thrown over his shoulder met with the apologetic eyes of Rei. Upon meeting Gohan's eyes, Rei opened his mouth to speak; an imperceptible shake of the head and a warning look from Gohan subdued him.

x

Gohan was dragged down the stairs into the living room. The room was pitch-dark from the drawn curtains and blinds. Gohan was thrown to the floor and Hadrian kicked his chin sending him face down against the abrasive carpeting. Inches away, tossed carelessly, lay the incriminating evidence of two dirt shod sneakers. Gohan struggled to his knees as blood dribbled from his mouth. His jaw was already swelling and pained him in no small amount. With perverse pleasure, Hadrian wiped some blood from Gohan's lip and licked it from his own finger.

"Look at the mess you're making." Hadrian ordered, distorting his lips into a sick parody of a smile. "Clean it up." Hadrian bid with sadistic delight and shoved Gohan's face into his already pooling blood. Gohan struggled against the large rough hands that held him and Hadrian chortled derisively.

"Feisty little thing aren't you?" Hadrian forced Gohan's face up and, smiling coldly, bent his head to devour his lips viciously. Gohan felt the panic rise as well as the bile in his throat.

"Mmm." Hadrian chuckled darkly as he savored the tangy blood from Gohan's mouth. Then he advanced. Gohan thrashed about in a futile attempt to escape the tugging, pulling, ripping, and then the grasping...groping...

ooo

Gohan jerked from the grip of his assailant with a startled gasp and almost fell out of his chair. It took a moment for Gohan to get his bearings; he was sitting in a classroom and students were filing out of the door. The face of the person who'd woken him hovered to the side of him; she was the same dark haired girl he'd noticed earlier.

"Hey, sorry for alarming you, but it's lunch time." the girl said sounding more annoyed then repentant. Gohan gave a short nod and sighing rubbed his face with his left hand tiredly. Then, Gohan stood slowly and followed the others out of the room.


Chapter 6: Lunch

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

People make jokes cuz they don't understand me,
They just don't see my real side
I act like shit don't phase me,
Inside it drives me crazy.
My insecurities could eat me alive...

I wanna just take this time out to be perfectly honest,
Cuz there's a lot of shit I keep bottled that hurts deep inside
Of my soul. And just know
That I grow colder the older I grow.
This boulder on my shoulder gets heavy and harder to hold,
And this load is like the weight of the world,
And I think my neck is breakin'.
Should I just give up or try to live up to these expectations?

Eminem-Hailie's Song

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Gohan was one of the last people to reach the cafeteria due to the jumble of bodies in the hall and his attempts to avoid being knocked into. As he took his place in line to receive his lunch he could feel the number of eyes trained on him. 'I wonder if I jump on a table and start stripping if they'll do anything besides stare at me with their mouths agape.' Gohan smiled as his mind chuckled in amusement at the idea.

"He's a freak, just look at him!"

"Yeah, like, he doesn't even talk."

"I bet he's queer."

x

Gohan's smile faded from his mouth and he ducked his head in shame at the last comment. All along the line similar remarks were being made by boys and girls alike. He quickly paid for his lunch and made his way to a vacant table. He sat down and hunched over his "mystery meat" and gooey accompaniments. Reaching into his backpack for his meds (pain reliever, anti-depressant, and ki suppressant) Gohan heard the approach and felt the shift of the table before he saw those who decided to join him. But, when he looked up, wisely not having taken out his meds, he knew he could do without the company.

x

An auburn haired girl hung on the over sized bicep of a large boy who was in the center of a group of thuggish jocks.

"Hey, weirdo, what are you doing sitting at our table?" the leader challenged with a nod toward his buddies. 'Oh, great, the bully is the over stereo-typical captain of the Orange Star High dojo.' Gohan though ruefully as he noticed the team jackets.

"..."

"Well, ain't cha gonna answer him?" 'And, one of the cronies decided to open his mouth in an attempt to say something intelligent. Ooh, no such luck, maybe next time folks!' Gohan thought with annoyance.

"Listen here, punk, nobody ignores us. Now, tell me what you're doing in my seat." Captain Unsavory remarked, idiotically in Gohan's opinion.

x

Having enough of their absurd, and not to mention inane, words, Gohan stood holding his plate with the mind to leave. His arm and leg were paining him and a migraine was starting to manifest itself in the back of his head. Before he could leave though, the tormentor stopped Gohan by barring his retreat with that hugely muscled arm previously mentioned. Gohan sighed quietly, 'Where's a teacher when you need one?' He closed his eyes in irritation of not only the boy, but the pounding in his skull, and then looked to the boy expectantly. The boy whose jacket proclaimed his name Tyrone, 'How befitting, it rhymes with Tyrant,' opened his mouth to tell him off again, before he beat him no doubt.

"Tyrone, what're you doing?" The voice was accusatory and clearly that of a female. Gohan watched with mild surprise as the girl who woke him in class stepped up to the larger boy in challenge.

"No-nothing V-Videl, we weren't doin' nothin'." Tyrone lied holding out his hands in a gesture of supplication.

"That's what I thought. Hey, Sesshomaru, you want to sit somewhere else?" Videl looked to Gohan expectantly. Gohan nodded feeling relieved as Tyrone stepped aside to let him pass. Gohan walked out of the cafeteria after dumping his untouched tray and headed for a water fountain. Digging his meds out of his bag he felt the shame and anger that came with the helplessness he found himself in all too often these days. 'From the strongest fighter in the world to a sniveling coward; how pathetic.' Sighing for what felt like the umpteenth time that day he popped the three pills into his mouth and sipped some water to help swallow them.

xxXXxx

The rest of the day passed in uneventful boredom and Gohan left school more tired then after a round with Hadrian. 'That girl though, she's something else.' He snorted inwardly as he walked down the steps.

"Looks like you enjoyed yourself, how was school?" Koriyo stood leaning against the car waiting for Gohan to show up. Gohan thought pensively for a moment and then scrutinized Koriyo before settling on shrugging his shoulders offhandedly. Koriyo smiled at Gohan's answer and then laughed.

"I guess if you aren't shaking your head that's a good thing?" Koriyo looked to Gohan inquisitively. Gohan gave a miniscule smile in return and nodded. 'There's something more to that girl, it'd be worth the time to find out what it is.'


Dedicated to Angel Shock for the excellent suggestions and Chaney, my most loyal reviewer!

Chapter 7: Surgery

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I've built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need for friendship
Friendship causes pain
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island

Simon & Garfunkle

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Gohan sat on his bed staring at nothing in particular, but rather allowed his eyes to wander and take note of what they would. The room was rather large, bigger then the attic that he shared with Keitaro, Rei, and Toshiro even. The two beds lay on either side of the room affording a very open space in between. The floor was bare, beautiful oak wood flooring that Gohan loved most because it was nothing like the grubby brown carpeting in the Hiais' house. The walls were not the charred and dastardly chipped fortifications that had held him prisoner in that god forsaken hell-hole. These walls were painted a pale blue-and-white marble that reminded Gohan of those early morning skies with the clouds stretched so thin they were almost transparent. A dark blue trim ran along the border of the walls toward the floor and ceiling. On the walls, in thin, black frames hung exquisite water color paintings of ponds with various flowers, and large print photos of grassy pools with crystal clear water and shiny pebbles on the bottom. The room had a natural calming effect on Gohan and he couldn't help but feel safe. No one was going to drag him out of bed in the middle of the night in this room. Everything was just so serene, Gohan often found himself thinking, 'Yuriko should definitely go into interior design as a career'.

x

Because the beds were on either side of the room, there was one large dresser shared between the two occupants. Gohan had his own newly bought clothes in his designated drawers, the ones directly by his bed. The bed was covered with a down comforter colored in swatches of black and royal blue. The dresser was made from rosewood with intricate carvings of flowering vines. Above the dresser were the two large windows with matching drapes of dark blue to go with the trimming. Across from the windows was the closet for hang up clothes and the door.

x

Probably Gohan's absolute favorite part of the room was the door; intimidating solid mahogany with a brass knob and inner lock, the finest door. If he so chose, he could lock that door every night before he went to sleep. Koriyo and Yuriko assured him he was welcome to his privacy, and could make use of the lock whenever he felt necessary.

"Are you ready?" Gohan was snapped from his aimless musing as Koriyo knocked on the open door and stuck his head in. Nodding haltingly Gohan stood and, with one last look around his room, left closing the door behind him.

xxXXxx

Gohan watched listlessly as the scenery flashed by. It was Friday; he wasn't going to school even though it was only his second day. They were going to the hospital for his first set of surgeries; the doctor hoped he'd miss fewer days from school if he had the weekend to recover. 'They should've just forgone the school bit until after the surgeries, if they insist I must go.' Gohan thought for what felt like the hundredth time. Gohan allowed his mind to clear as if he were going to meditate. The scenery was just streaks of color flashing by at forty-five miles per hour. A house...another house...a school...a wall...a line of trees...a house..

ooo

Gohan sat at a small round table; he stared down at the cup of coffee nestled in his hands. It couldn't really be described as simple as coffee. It resembled a muddy bog with pond scum growing on top; they dared to call it cream froth. The stuff was strong enough to strip the hair off your chest and hot enough to scorch your throat, but sadly not the taste buds on your tongue. Only hospitals would serve such swill, and Gohan was not too happy to be there. His stomach churned with too much gooey brown liquid and not enough food until he felt thoroughly queasy.

"You're looking greener than me." Gohan looked up to find Piccolo standing in front of him. He quickly averted his gaze, finding the table to be quite fascinating really.

"How'd you find me, I thought you couldn't sense my ki anymore?" Gohan probed dully. He ran a finger along a crack in the table indiscreetly as he wondered what made that nasty yellowish brown stain. 'Probably this sludge.' he thought staring broodingly down into the half filled cup once more.

"I can't, not one of us can, but I figured you'd stick around." Piccolo answered bluntly, as usual.

x

Gohan lifted the cup to his lips and took a large gulp which contorted his face into one of repugnance and made him shudder visibly. Piccolo let out a noise of revulsion.

"How can you drink that muck?"

"Very quickly?" Gohan offered and shrugged a shoulder without lifting his eyes.

"Gohan, I'm here if you need to talk." Piccolo affirmed directly. Gohan looked at a particular purple blotch on the table that could have been grape jelly at one point but had mutated into a blob of hardened taffy-type substance. 'It actually looks kinda like Icarus if I turn my head and squint a little.'

"Gohan." Piccolo said firmly. Gohan sighed, but did not look at his mentor.

"I know, Piccolo." he whispered quietly. 'He wouldn't understand. They all say the same thing, they're here to listen, I can talk to them, I can cry on their shoulder, if I need something I shouldn't hesitate to ask. Well, who does dad have to listen to him? Who can he talk to? What rights have I to cry after what I've done to those who cared for me? They can't understand what it's like to be evil; it's not in their vocabulary. Besides, I'm getting my just punishment, I'm a weakling now; I can't help anyone.' Gohan picked languidly at a red substance that could have been ketchup last year but now resembled a piece of well flattened and chewed cherry bubblegum.

"There you guys are! Gohan, it's a boy, his name's Goten!" Bulma stood with her hands on her hips and a grin spread wide across her face. "Well, what do you have to say to that?" she asked smugly thumping Gohan on the bicep for emphasis.

"When can I see him?" Gohan asked and for the first time met someone's eyes, Bulma's, with hope shining through his despair.

ooo

Gohan woke as the car pulled to a stop in front of the white hospital building. He rubbed his sleep filled eyes tiredly and yawned silently.

"Well, we're here. Are you ready; had a good nap?" Koriyo looked to Gohan with concern in his eyes. Gohan managed a cursory nod and pushed the door open with only the slight difficulty of one between the stages of wakefulness and sleep. Stepping out of the car proved quite a feat of accomplishment when his coordination was shot to shit from sleeping in the car. Koriyo actually had to reach out a hand to steady Gohan a moment. Gohan stared at the looming building in front of him; he'd seen far too much of hospitals of late.

x

They approached the doors which slid back automatically with a soft hiss. Walking up to the desk, Gohan allowed Koriyo to handle the appointment exchange as he looked around the waiting room. 'It must be a universal given, hospitals must have rows of those uncomfortable chairs covered in that shiny upholstery that sticks to you and makes that shhhick sound when you stand up. Not to mention those really low tables with magazines and that one corner with toys and children's books.' Koriyo tapped Gohan on the shoulder. Gohan followed Koriyo as a nurse led them both down a hallway to the proper ward.

xxXXxx

"So far, we've done two of the crucial surgeries on his leg; that was while he was recovering during his previous stay. This will be the last one, we've only to-shall we say-tweak anything resulting from," and here the doctor gave Gohan a stern look, "added pressure." Gohan lay on a table in one of those grossly undignified hospital gowns as the doctor expounded to Koriyo what was going to be taking place in only a few moments.

"Now, his right arm is more difficult; he's had two surgeries on that as well. However, the extent of the injury to his arm was significantly graver then those of his leg. He'll need two more surgeries after this one if no further problems occur that might necessitate additional modifications. So, Sesshomaru, are you ready?" Gohan gave no answer but rather closed his eyes in consent. The doctor then had Gohan's bed wheeled into surgery where he was put under anesthesia.

ooo

Gohan stood outside of Capsule Corp with Goten bundled in a forest green blanket in his arms. He stood before the door in indecision, should he knock? Before Gohan could turn back the way he'd come the door opened revealing a blue haired woman holding a lavender haired baby.

"Oh! Gohan, what're you doing here?" Bulma asked with furrowed brows noting Goten in his arms.

"Hey Bulma, I was just...I thought I'd stop by and visit...Is...Is Vegeta here?" Gohan felt a blush come to his cheeks and ducked his head in an attempt to conceal his embarrassment. He really didn't want to see Vegeta, or Bulma for that matter, but he needed to get away from Chi Chi. All she did was cry all day, and Gohan could no longer stand the torment of looking into her red rimmed eyes and seeing the unspoken accusation in them. He had Goten with him because he couldn't trust his mother within a ten foot radius where Goten was concerned. She hadn't held Goten once since bringing him home from the hospital. Gohan suspected her reservation stemmed from Goten's resemblance to her late husband, even in infancy.

x

"Vegeta? Why would you want to see him?" Bulma's tone was one of derision and incredulity. Gohan kept his eyes diverted and shuffled his feet on the stone walkway. Then Bulma's face turned considerate and comprehension dawned on her.

"Oh, sorry Gohan, but Vegeta's training right now and doesn't want to be disturbed. I need to go to the store for some diapers and other baby necessities. Feel free to hang out though, watch some television, whatever. You can even raid the fridge if you're hungry." Bulma invited putting on a cheerful facade. Gohan knew she invited him to stay out of sympathy, but he liked most that she did not question him or try to force him to talk about it.

x

Through the whole ordeal, it was surprisingly Bulma who was most intuitive when it came to Gohan. It was probably a product of being surrounded by those more powerful then her since her first run in with Goku. Bulma gave Gohan his space and solitude and a sound thrashing with plenty of screaming when he blamed himself and sulked too much. Gohan nodded and thanked Bulma before entering the large house, if you could call the humongous place a mere house.

x

Gohan quickly settled himself in front of the television with a few gallon sized bags of chips and a six pack of pop. Goten was sleeping nestled on the couch with a pillow preventing him from falling. Gohan watched a romance movie on the television; he was asleep half-way through it. Gohan didn't like romantic films but it was better then some horror film with oversized insect monsters attacking Earth, or an action film with martial arts masters, or even a comedy which made him laugh and feel guilty at the same time. Everything he saw on television, in some way, reminded him of Cell or his father; each thought was equally depressing and guilt laden.

"What are you doing here?" the deep voiced growl roused Gohan from his semi-comatose state. There was no insult, no 'kakarot's brat', just a bald question.

x

Gohan felt far removed from Vegeta, and it wasn't just Vegeta but all the others in the Z gang. The feeling had plagued him since that first day of powerlessness. His strength was what had bound him to the team, now, without his power, he was no longer part of the group. It was not as if they tried to exclude him but they stood aloof. They watched what they said around him least they remind him of what he was no longer capable of; they walked on eggshells, even Vegeta! Part of Gohan asked himself numerous times, 'What am I doing here?' when he was around any of the Z senshi. Gohan had begun to stop Krillin and everyone from visiting him—he couldn't fly anymore—with placating gestures of his continued health and "fineness". Gohan isolated himself in an effort to distance himself from the gang; he had no right to make them miserable with his petty vulnerabilities.

x

"I was just stopping by." Gohan finally answered, staring at a point over Vegeta's left shoulder. Then he stood brushing the crumbs off his shirt and flipping the TV off. "I think Goten and I'll head home now. Tell Bulma goodbye for me." Gohan murmured as he cleaned up his mess. Vegeta merely snorted as he leaned against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, and surveyed Gohan's domestic proceedings. Gohan gathered Goten into his arms and muttered a farewell to Vegeta who simply grunted in reply.

ooo

Gohan stared at the back of his eye lids which glowed with an unfamiliar bleeding red. 'The sun must be shining in my face.' he deduced groggily. Cracking his eyes open a bit proved his hypothesis accurate. He squinted at the blinding light and shifted uncomfortably from his prone position.

"I think he's waking up." Koriyo's voice announced to an unknown entity. Then a shadow fell across Gohan's face and allowed him to see properly. At first the figure was blurry with the after-image made by the sun's glare, but it resolved itself into Koriyo's full face with graying hair from the top of his head to the bottom of his stubble chin.

"The surgery went well; the doctor says your leg is healing properly. You'll have the cast off in two weeks, sooner if it heals enough. Do you feel ok?" Koriyo asked peering down at Gohan. Gohan shrugged and studied the way the sun glowed around Koriyo, casting shadows across his face and glowing around his head like a halo.


Chapter 8: Friendships

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Don't talk of love
Well, I've heard the word before
It's sleeping in my memory
I won't disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died

If I never loved,
I never would have cried
I touch no one
And no one touches me

I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Simon & Garfunkle

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Gohan walked slowly by Koriyo through the hospital toward the cafeteria. It was Saturday afternoon, and Koriyo had stopped by the hospital to have lunch with Gohan. Gohan could've taken his lunch in the room but he felt eerie in the room surrounded by blank walls and silence. Hospitals, he often found, took sterilization to a whole new level. No pictures hung in his room and the main color schemes were white and silver metal. It wasn't cozy or inviting in the least, hence his decision to take his meal in the cafeteria. Besides, he needed the exercise like the doctor said.

x

"So, you think you'll be ready to come home tomorrow, Ru?" Koriyo asked. Gohan nodded immediately and pushed open the door to the cafeteria.

"Are you comfortable in your room?" Gohan considered lying to Koriyo but saw no reason to, and shook his head truthfully. They each got a plate of food that looked edible, at least, and made their way to a small table.

"Yes, I guess I can understand; you've spent too many days of your life in a hospital, right?" Gohan nodded once as his mind remembered the white walled room at the institution, the silence of the night that was disturbed by the opening of his door and the low laugh of the orderly. Gohan closed his eyes tightly and pushed the memories to the very back of his mind, those were recollections he'd rather forget.

x

Gohan and Koriyo ate at a small table that was surprisingly clean though slightly sticky like someone had wiped it with a rag that was used before. Gohan watched his arms to keep them from touching the sticky table top and ate the stereotypical hospital food which consisted of spaghetti with runny sauce, half wilted salad, canned multi-fruit, and a small box of milk. Koriyo kept up a running commentary about what was going on with the other kids and Mrs. Hashuko while the two ate. Gohan listened with avid interest, not of the information being imparted but the affection with which Koriyo spoke about his family.

x

Koriyo's kind, open, expressive brown eyes reflected the fondness he felt for his loved ones. His face was full, almost like a young boy before the last spurt of puberty that sent him into manhood. His whole countenance radiated with energy and innocence Gohan could hardly even recall possessing. Only his fast graying hair belied his true age and the silver glinted stubble along his jaw line. It was probably this quality of openness and childishness that led Gohan to trust him.

x

Gohan learned that the other four children were actually adopted by the Hashukos and with this information came the realization why they seemed so much like a family. 'Then again, he treats me like a son too. He hasn't even tried to make me talk to him. He accepts me the way I am, unconditionally. Isn't that what family does?' Gohan felt a sense of panic at the realization that he didn't really know anymore. 'Has it really been that long since I had a family, since I felt loved or even knew what the term meant?'

"Sesshomaru?" Gohan turned toward the unfamiliar voice that broke in on his thoughts and was met with the sight of Videl looking quite rumpled. Her dark hair stuck in odd angles out of her pig tails and her face had dirt smeared along her cheeks, jaw, and temple. Her clothing was torn and ripped and had twice as much dirt on it then her face. Gohan felt the familiar tingle of alarm claw its way up his spine as he spotted blood on Videl's arm and side mixed in with the dirt to create a crusty film along her skin.

x

"Hello, I'm Hashuko Koriyo, and you are?" Koriyo asked with curiosity, taking note of her appearance as well.

"I'm Satan Videl, Sesshomaru's in my class at school." Videl explained distractedly as she studied Gohan. "What are you doing here?" Gohan cocked his head sideways and pointed to her with a look of expectancy.

"He wants to know what you're doing here first." Koriyo remarked smiling at the developments.

"Oh, I was helping the police in a hostage situation. Sadly, they'd already shot a woman when I got there. I'm here to see if the woman will pull through." Videl explained frankly without boasting. Gohan raised an eyebrow, 'That explains the blood and dirt bit, but she fights crime? Satan...wait, she can't be! She isn't related to that moron Hercule Satan, is she?' Gohan was glad to note he was not gaping like a fish when he turned his attention outward again.

"Now, your turn." Videl ordered with hands on her hips.

"Ru came on Friday to have surgery performed on his leg and arm." Koriyo enlightened the filthy girl.

"Really, is that why you don't participate in the physical education class?" Gohan nodded and Videl looked pleased that she knew the reason.

"Miss Satan?" a woman called from the door dressed in a doctor's coat.

"Oh, I gotta go. See you in class Monday?" Gohan nodded and Videl hurried over to receive news of the patient she'd brought in.

"Ru, you didn't tell me you had any friends at school." Koriyo teased Gohan.

ooo

"Gohan, you need to make some friends, get out of the house." Krillin said from his perch on a tree limb. The sun was high in the indigo blue sky. Gohan sat by the lake, and Goten lay on his stomach on a blanket spread over the ground nearby. He was still too young to even lift his head but Goten's eyes gazed over the blanket and grass with fascination.

"Krillin, it's not that easy." Gohan sighed, exhausted from the topic that had barely begun. He picked idly at the grass and stared broodingly into the water. A soft breeze rippled the surface of the lake that could be seen clear through to the sandy bottom. Small silvery fish swam languidly along the pebble strewn bed, and shined different colors of the rainbow as the sun refracted the light off their scales.

"Gohan." Krillin started but Gohan cut him off by standing abruptly.

"I have responsibilities Krillin; Goten needs me to watch over him and take care of him." Gohan snapped angrily with his back toward Krillin.

"Gohan, you aren't Goten's father." Krillin returned annoyed, but the moment he realized what he'd said he clamped his mouth shut.

"That's right; I'm not Goten's father! I took him away from both of us!" Gohan yelled whipping around to face Krillin as tears pricked his eyes despite his willing them away.

x

Krillin dropped down from the tree branch that had served as his resting place in the lazy warm sun.

"Gohan, you know I didn't mean it like that." Krillin stepped forward placating, but Gohan backed away from the pitying offer.

"No." Gohan backed further away and damned the unchecked tears that streaked down his face. Swiping a hand roughly across his eyes he clammed up and his face went blank, emotionless.

"Damn it, Gohan, I just meant that you need to be a kid once in a while!" Krillin cried in exasperation. His hands were held out from his sides in a gesture of resignation as his eyes watched Gohan with helplessness.

"Krillin, I think it's time you left." Gohan stated bluntly without inflection.

"Gohan!" Krillin called out stubbornly.

"Goten's tired, I think I'll take him in now." Gohan muttered and picked up the snoozing infant. Without a parting remark he made his way home. Krillin sighed and, shaking his head, took to the sky.

ooo

"Sesshomaru?" Gohan blinked in disorientation and glanced up to see Koriyo's concerned face. He shook his head as well as the image of Krillin flying away when he'd looked back from the woods that day from long ago.

"Ru, I need to be going now. Will you be all right until I pick you up tomorrow evening?" Gohan gave a sharp nod, but remained seated. Koriyo nodded to himself and ruffled Gohan's hair by way of farewell. Gohan stared into the distance, to a similar remembrance.

ooo

Gohan walked in the forest alone. Goten was settled down for his afternoon nap and would be fine for the next two hours. He made his way aimlessly; letting his feet take him where they would. His mind was preoccupied with his argument with Krillin the previous day. 'Krillin doesn't get it. I've never had a childhood. If I wasn't facing some alien out to destroy the world, then I was studying in my room or training for a new foe. And, I didn't mind...not really, I always had my friends with me. I don't have anyone anymore, and I have no one to fight; which is a good thing considering my present state.' he thought, perversely amused.

x

Gohan hadn't realized where his feet had carried him and didn't take notice until the sound of crashing water reached his ears. When Gohan took the time to study his surroundings he recognized Piccolo's meditating waterfall. A glance along the falling white water proved annoyingly fruitful as he spotted Piccolo floating halfway up the cascade. He turned, with the intent of sneaking away unspotted, but at that moment a twig snapped loudly underfoot. 'Maybe the waterfall will drown it out?' Gohan thought optimistically. Piccolo's eyes flew open and he was instantly in a fighting stance, 'No such luck; only Piccolo would be able to pick out such a small unnatural sound with water crashing all around his big ears.' Gohan thought incensed. When Piccolo spotted Gohan he flew down to meet him. Gohan really didn't want company after yesterday's confrontation.

"Gohan?" Piccolo questioned expectantly standing a little tense. 'He's either really annoyed I interrupted his meditation or he's worried I have bad news.'

"I was just walking, didn't realize where I was going. Sorry to have interrupted your training." Gohan mumbled a little mordantly.

"Spit it out, kid, what's bothering you?" Piccolo asked impatiently crossing his arms over his chest. Gohan glared.

"Look, I said I was sorry for interrupting your damn meditation! Please, don't bother yourself with me; I'm pretty much a useless waste of time!" Gohan snarled with contempt stemming from jealousy. Had Gohan come upon Piccolo before the Cell Games Piccolo would have invited him to join in his meditation or a sparring match.

"Gohan, I can tell something's bothering you." Piccolo stated simply, ignoring Gohan's disrespectful words and refusing to contest Gohan's expressions of self-worthlessness; it would only infuriate Gohan if he did.

"Nothing's bothering me, I'm perfectly fine." Gohan retorted calmly. Inside, his mind was screaming at him, 'Why are you pushing them away!'

"I didn't believe that the first time you fed it to me, I don't believe it now." Piccolo replied bluntly.

"Whatever, it's none of your business anyway!" Gohan shouted temperamentally. And, in answer to his hidden question came the echo in his mind whispering forlornly as a lost child might, 'Because I don't want to hurt like I do.'


Disclaimer: The reference to The Fall of The House of Usher belongs to Edgar Allen Poe and affiliates! And the song excerpt belongs to a compendium of music called/from The Secret Garden (I'm not sure of the composer!).

Chapter 9: Shattered Dreams

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So much pain and no good reason why
You cried until the tears run dry
Nothing else can make you understand
The one thing that you held so dear
Is slipping from your hand

And you say
Why, why, why
Does it go this way?
And why, why, why
And all I can say is

Somewhere down the road
There'll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road
Though we cannot see it now
And somewhere down the road
You will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will have the answers
At the end of the road

Faith Hill-Somewhere Down the Road

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Gohan stood outside of Orange Star High School on Monday morning. He glanced to the sky which was laden with heavy black clouds. The sun was completely invisible behind the ominously overcast sky. Not a ray of sunlight penetrated through the thick blanket of darkness. Gohan hated the way it spread all the way to the horizon with no end in sight, no hope for a brighter day. Hunching his shoulders he quickly made his way to the doors and ducked inside.

x

Inside the school, the lights seemed dimmer and the students not in class seemed more subdued. Such oppressive weather had that effect on people Gohan guessed. The walls were some how drabber and the floors more worn and scuff marked. Gohan retrieved his books from his locker and made his way to class. He slunk inside the designated door and slumped into his seat unenthusiastically. There was no gossiping or giggling to be heard; if the students weren't seated with their heads on their desks, they were looking out the windows mournfully. Most were wondering how such a bright and sun filled weekend could be followed by such a gloomy, gothic beginning of the week.

x

Gohan was among those who eyed the portentous clouds in the sky through the glass windows. Only when Videl released her bag, to let it drop on the floor loudly, and flopped into her chair with a heavy sigh did Gohan tear his eyes away from the windows to look at her instead.

"Hey Ru." Videl said by way of greeting though her voice held no animation. 'Looks like the weather affects her the same.' Gohan thought intuitively. He nodded in return to acknowledge the halfhearted greeting.

x

The door opened and Mr. Akiro entered looking quite lackluster himself.

"All right now, we'll be going over how to take the derivatives of more complex problems." the teacher started and then glanced around the room. Seeing all the featureless, monotonous students he seemed to sag further in his grungy grey coat.

"On second thought, just take out your books and work on the even problems from last Friday's section." Mr. Akiro instructed resignedly. Several students groaned as they unpacked their books and set to work. Some students didn't even bother to pretend to do work and stared out the windows drearily. Gohan sat reading over a problem several times before he realized he'd been on the same problem for over twenty minutes. He caught sight of Videl out of the corner of his eye and watched her progress slowly through a problem. A glance at Sharpener confirmed that he'd given up trying to work in such a depressing atmosphere. He was sleeping soundly with his head on his arms over his math book, a small trickle of drool making its way from one corner of his mouth. Gohan blinked tiredly and tried to keep his eyes focused on something other then the mind-numbing text before him.

ooo

The rain pounded loudly against the roof and shutters. A flash of bright blue and white lightening illuminated the cramped room for a split second. The room felt stuffy to Gohan as if the air was too thick to breathe. A loud clap of thunder reverberated through the attic followed closely by the booming rumble that promised more from where that came from. The wind howled ferociously and tree branches whipped across the windows like wild animals clawing to get in or throwing themselves mindlessly at the door. Thwap! Kaboom! Crack! Oooo! Shiiiiiishsss! whhhisss! Crrrack! Scratch! Boom! Thwap...!

x

Gohan was reminded of the story written by Edger Allen Poe about a house on a hill, much like this one actually, only this one wasn't surrounded by marshes or acres of barren land. The dilapidated house did sag though and was surrounded by straggly trees like skeletons reaching their branches to the sky in perpetual purgatory. In the story, Gohan could remember how the house crumpled in upon itself, and deep down he wished the same would happen to this house. Lightning flashed again closely followed by the rumbling thunder. Underneath the covers, Toshiro quivered with fear.

x

Then a thundering sound louder then any they'd heard before made its way toward them. Gohan recognized the rumbling for what it was, Hadrian's boots on the stairs. Gohan watched with bated breath as the door knob turned with a resounding squeak! Then, all at once it whooshed open and slammed against the wall with a deafening BANG!

"Get up! All of you mangy dogs get up!" Hadrian dragged Toshiro, who was nearest to him, out of bed by his hair. Gohan and the others all scrambled out of bed as fast as they could before Hadrian could use similar tactics with them. Gohan wore only his boxer shorts after having discarded his pants in an effort to make himself more comfortable. Stooping, he grabbed some pants from the floor to pull over his underwear. Crack! Boom! Thwap! Rei jumped in fright as Hadrian lunged forward and swiped the jeans from Gohan's hands.

x

Another flash of lightening illuminated the attic and afforded Gohan enough light by which to see Hadrian's flushed face and glassy red eyes before Hadrian's fist landed on the side of his head. Gohan staggered under the blow and Hadrian grabbed him by the arm to propel him out of the room. Gohan had no control over his footing and stumbled, then rolled down the stairs to lie like a heap of rags at the bottom. Crack! Whoosh! Gohan moaned and crawled onto his hands and knees spitting blood onto the crusty, well-worn carpeting. The stairs creaked and groaned as the other three boys were ushered down forcefully. Thwap! Creak! Kaboom! Urrrgggk! The groaning stairs seemed the perfect back drop for the storm raging outside.

x

Hadrian reached the bottom of the stairs and kicked Gohan in the ribs powerfully. Gohan's breath whooshed out of him not unlike the wind outside beating against the door. More blood made its way up Gohan's esophagus as he coughed and his eyes watered with pain. From his curled position looking up, as the lightening flashed again making the curtains glow eerily, Gohan could see the other three boys trembling in their oversized night wear. Thwap! Crack! Thwap!

x

Hadrian snarled unintelligibly and seized Gohan by the hair. Gohan stifled a whimper as he was dragged through the kitchen to the back door. The other three boys followed in silent submission as they shook with reaction. Hadrian yanked open the back door bringing all the sounds closer to mind until it drowned out all thought. Ssshhh! Crack! Scratch! Boom! Thwap! Whoosh! Rrooo! Hadrian lifted Gohan until his feet almost dangled and threw him out the door. Gohan fell on the stone stoop jarring his elbows and knocking his head excruciatingly on the cement. His whole body was soaked in seconds and he shivered as freezing cold water pelted him like stinging pins and needles.

"Get out, you mangy curs!" Gohan heard Hadrian bellow over the ringing in his ears. The three boys rushed out, but Toshiro was cuffed on the back of the head by the door slamming shut. All four of them heard the bolt run home accompanied by a loud Crack!

ooo

"Ru! Ru!" Gohan's eyes snapped open at the violent shaking of his left arm. Mere inches away from his face, was Videl's anxious one. Her eyes expressed her apprehension, and Gohan was compelled to ask what was wrong but quickly stifled the impulse. It took a minute for his mind to realize that the booming noise he originally thought was an echo of his dream was really thunder from outside at the present moment. Glancing to the windows he could see the rain coming down in torrents against the glass panes. He realized, too, that he was shivering uncontrollably, his hands shook visibly. Clenching the disobedient appendages together Gohan tried to stop the trembling that he wasn't completely sure came from being cold. His teeth chattered together and Gohan clenched his jaw shut.

"Ru, Ru?" Gohan looked to Videl expectantly; she still leaned in front of him. He nodded to show he was listening.

"Ru, Mrs. Harding called you to the office." Videl explained. Gohan must have looked thoroughly confused because in the next moment Videl stood and offered him her hand.

"Would you like me to come with you?" She offered kindly. Lightning flashed outside the windows but was absorbed within the classroom since the lights were on. Gohan, still dazed from his dream-memory, numbly accepted Videl's hand and let her guide him to the principal's office.

xxXXxx

Gohan and Videl entered the office together and sat in adjoining chairs. Mrs. Harding had a frightened and worried expression on her face.

"Sesshomaru Hashuko, I presume?" she asked Gohan, her voice thick. Gohan made no move to answer her.

"Yes, this is Ru." Videl supplied helpfully.

"And, you are?" Mrs. Harding queried, noticing Videl all of a sudden, as if she hadn't walked in with Gohan.

"Videl Satan, ma'am." Videl replied.

"Mr. Hashuko, would you like Ms. Satan to stay here with you?" Gohan seemed to come out of his stupor slightly, enough to nod at the question.

"Ma'am, if I could ask, why do you want to see Ru?"

"Well, Mr. Hashuko, Sesshomaru, the school has just received word that...that...The school has just received word that Mr. and Mrs. Hashuko were in an automobile accident." Mrs. Harding articulated with great difficulty.

"Well, are they ok, what happened?" Videl was clutching Gohan's hand painfully and her voice rose an octave.

"Mr. and Mrs. Hashuko were driving their daughter, Miya, home after having received a call from her school that she wasn't feeling well. On the...on the way to their home a semi-truck ran a red light and...and hit your parents' car. They...they died on impact." Mrs. Harding notified them as tears streaked down her face. Videl gasped and turned to Gohan empathetically.

"Oh, Ru, I'm so sorry!" Videl cried as tears leaked from her eyes. Gohan simply stared at nothing as tears streaked down his hollowed cheeks and fell to his clasped hands that were blue in the knuckles. Videl sniveled and wrapped her arms around Gohan who sat motionlessly and cried silently.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

High on a hill sits a big old house with something wrong inside it.
Spirits haunt the halls and make no efforts now, to hide it.

Ooo...OooOooOoo...Ooo

And the master hears the whispers
On the stairways dark and still
And the spirit speaks of secrets
In the house upon the hill

I heard someone crying, who though, could it be?
Maybe it was mother, calling out to me,
Maybe it was father, all alone, and lost, and cold.
I heard someone crying; maybe it was me...

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Chapter 10: Mending the Pieces

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I know you feel
Like the walls are closing in on you
It's hard to find relief
And people can be so cold
When darkness is upon your door
And you feel like you can't take anymore

Let me be the one you call
If you jump I'll break your fall
Lift you up and fly away with you
Into the night

If you need to fall apart
I can mend a broken heart
If you need to crash then crash and burn
You're not alone

When you feel all alone
And a loyal friend is hard to find
You're caught in a one way street
With the monsters in your head
When hopes and dreams are far away and
You feel like you can't face the day

Let me be the one you call
If you jump, I'll break your fall
Lift you up and fly away with you
Into the night

If you need to fall apart
I can mend a broken heart
If you need to crash then crash and burn
You're not alone

Savage Garden-Crash and Burn

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

They lay there, sleek and black, while the warm rays from the sun glared off their glossy surface. White satin petals tumbled across the darkly glistening curves, like doves' feathers on the wind. They fall to the supple, green, shrouding earth with blissful silence. Across the dew sprinkled, weaving reeds and against the numerous silk clad legs, or onto blood red velvet coverings. The wind was a rustling whisper; the sound of a child crying. And then a voice, raised in solemnity, began chanting a haunting eulogy.

x

Gohan sat, dressed in black, on a metal folding chair upholstered in red velvet. The priest, in his black uniform with the white collar, was giving the last rites in a sober voice that seemed to carry on the wind. Gohan's hands vigorously fret a damp handkerchief in his lap. Moving his head restlessly he caught a glimpse of the three rose draped coffins, and ducked his head hastily. Weeping could be heard from the extended family gathered around. Gohan felt like there were bands wrapped around his chest that were squeezing him; he recognized the feeling as guilt. 'What could I have done?' his brain asked helplessly and then angrily when no answer was forthcoming. 'I was at school.' he recognized the weak excuse for what it was by the tremulous voice that uttered it from within. 'It was their own stupid fault for driving in the storm!" he thought viciously and tried to harden his heart against the grief.

"Ru, are you ok?" The thoughtful question asked by Videl, who'd offered her support since the accident, broke the dam Gohan was desperately struggling to erect. The bands tightened until Gohan gasped and hot tears burst forth from his already puffy red eyes. Gohan turned his head into Videl's shoulder as silent, body wracking sobs overwhelmed him. He gripped Videl's dress in tightly fisted hands pulling her to him as he cried in silent agony. Videl's hand stroked his hair and rubbed his back comfortingly. The same thoughts ran through his mind like a broken record, 'Everyone I get close to dies!'

x

The wake was held at the house. Videl had to go home suddenly, but she promised to come over as soon as possible. Gohan sat on the edge of his bed, elbows resting on his knees. He gripped his head between his hands as the tears he'd bottled up over the years continued to run their jagged course down his ruddy cheeks and onto his fairly soaked lap. Every few seconds he sniffed or rubbed his runny nose on the sleeve of his suit with the indifference of the inconsolable. The soft murmur of the people milling about downstairs carried into his room. The door stood open; Gohan, noticing it, felt a sadistic desire for Hadrian to barge in and beat the living daylights out of him for killing his new family. Shaking his head, a small, timid voice whispered in his mind, 'What's gonna happen now?' There was a light knock on the door and Gohan, startled, looked to the door to see Koriyo standing there.

ooo

"Hey, Ru, can I come in?" Koriyo asked politely from the doorway. Gohan was inspecting the room they'd told him was his with extreme interest. Turning to see Koriyo positioned behind the threshold, Gohan felt a shiver travel up his spine and had to swallow hard to get his heart back in his chest. He gave a sharp nod and continued to finger the intricate designs on the dresser.

"It belonged to my mother; she gave it to Yuriko and me as a wedding gift." Koriyo said and motioned to the dresser when Gohan eyed him blankly. Gohan pulled his hand away surreptitiously and stared at his shoes.

"I hope you don't think it's too girly?" Koriyo asked as his eyes danced with his kind smile. Gohan shook his head vigorously as fear made him back away from Koriyo.

"You know, if you don't want to talk, that's fine. But, if you trust me on anything, trust that I'll never hit you." Koriyo calmly asserted as his face displayed his sincerity with its gravity. Gohan considered the man before him for a full minute before he was satisfied, he nodded.

"Good, now, the rules are quite simple. You are allowed to lock your door, but should someone knock, you are to make some indication that you hear. Perhaps well work something out like a one knock means you don't..."

ooo

"It's Ru, correct? At least, that's what Makoto says your name is." the man commented as he walked in. Gohan blinked, dispelling the figment of his imagination. The man who walked toward him wasn't Koriyo, but he bore a striking resemblance to the deceased man. 'A brother.' Gohan thought to himself as he turned to stare misery-faced and teary-eyed at the man.

"Look, I wanted you to know that my wife and I are taking Makoto into our home. Aneko, Yuriko's sister, will be taking in the twins. I...I thought you'd like to know." he explained hesitantly. 'What about me!' Gohan's mind screamed, but he took a deep, shuddering breath and nodded to show he'd heard. The man looked nonplussed.

"Makoto says you don't talk, is that true?" Gohan gaped at the man, 'He's just gotten back from his brother's funeral, and he wants to ask me pointless questions?' Gohan felt the anger and the need to lash out at something pervade his whole being. With an iron clad will and patience born of years of abuse he controlled his urge to punch the man. He may not have much power, but that didn't mean he didn't remember how to fight. 'What about Hadrian?' his mind whispered tauntingly. 'I deserved that.' Gohan thought as shame brought a blush to his cheeks.

"Ru?" The man asked expectantly. Gohan realized he was still waiting for an answer to his tedious question. He simply nodded and turned back to his original dejected position.

x

There was another knock and a young woman walked in nervously.

"Sesshomaru, do you have your stuff ready? There's a case worker from Social Services here for you." the woman announced anxiously. Gohan felt the blood drain from his face and his feet felt like lead.

"I know this must seem sudden." the woman offered consolingly. Gohan looked at the daft woman who had a talent for understatement. 'Not an hour after their funeral, and their foisting me off on someone else.' Gohan thought in astonishment. Methodically he stood and, grabbing a large duffle bag from his closet, he began to pack his clothes. Once he'd finished he looked around the room, destitute.

"Why don't you...go ahead and take something, two things, to remember." the woman, Gohan overheard the man call Aneko, suggested. Gohan decided quickly, he took the down comforter and wrapped it around his shoulders like an oversized cloak. The second item he took was a framed photo of a pond with a bank of violet colored flowers; two flowers were floating in the water sending ripples interlacing each other. Koriyo's brother carried Gohan's bag down the stairs to the social worker and Gohan carried his chosen items, refusing to relinquish them even for a few moments. Gohan entered the vehicle with the minimum amount of fuss and they drove off while relatives of the Hashukos looked on from the yard.

xxXXxx

Gohan sat curled on a settee in the office of his social worker, Ms. Gilde. He was swathed in his comforter with his duffel and picture set at his feet. Ms. Gilde had left him there to take a private call and had not returned. Gohan simply occupied himself with examining her office. It was quite normal, a desk with paperwork stacked on it and that familiar jar of pens and pencils placed in the corner. There was also on of those odd doodads that had the swinging metal balls that kept the time by seconds. The floor was an indistinguishable gray color and the chairs were of similar color give or take a shade. The walls, which were that strange beige color people insisted they use to improve the monotony of white but only succeeded in making a new standard dullness, were covered with posters. The posters were of colloquialisms, public awareness pitches, and little clichéd truisms.

x

Gohan yawned, and was about to fall asleep when the door opened, finally admitting Ms. Gilde. She was closely followed by a well dressed gentleman carrying a briefcase.

"Sesshomaru, this is Mr. Sachio, he'll be taking you to your new home." Ms. Gilde introduced amiably. Gohan eyed the overly large, scowling man and stifled his immediate reaction of fear. He studied Ms. Gilde who regarded him, Gohan, like the luckiest boy alive. Gohan decided if she wasn't upset or nervous then he really didn't have anything to worry about. Gohan adamantly paid no heed to the voice in his mind that said the man with the briefcase bribed Ms. Gilde to sell Gohan to a drunkard.

x

Gohan was silent on the car ride to his new home. Mr. Sachio did not offer any information on his new family; in fact, he was as close mouthed as Gohan. When the small indiscriminate black car pulled into a long drive and parked by a nifty red hover Porsche, Gohan decided they'd got the wrong house. When Mr. Sachio exited the car, Gohan decided they must've gotten lost and Mr. Sachio was going to ask for directions from those who lived in the mansion before them. It wasn't until Mr. Sachio opened the door for Gohan to get out that Gohan realized this was to be his new home, and he felt tremendous misgivings at the sight. 'Maybe Ms. Gilde did sell me to some rich guy; someone that likes young boys!' Gohan thought with apprehension.

x

The mansion was a towering three stories and resembled a castle of sorts with two square blocks jutting forward on each end. Sparkling vaulted windows lined the whole building and the double front doors stood like gigantic sentries. On either side of the doors were man sized statues depicting two martial artists in fighting stance. Hedges grew along the walkway up to the statues and doors. The grass was closely cut and Gohan could smell the fresh mulch. Getting out of the car, Gohan approached the front door trailing Mr. Sachio.

x

Gohan stepped into a grand entrance hall that had glossy marble flooring and white, grand style pillars up to the vaulted ceiling. Looking down, Gohan could practically see his reflection in the polished stone. Along the hall—placed strategically to look inconspicuous and natural at the same time—stood small chaise lounges and potted plants. Some plants had blooming flowers, and others just fancy leaves, but all were beautifully lush and well nourished. Gohan had that strange feeling one got when one walks into a glass figurine shop, like nothing is to be touched. 'You break it, you bought it.' Gohan thought humorously in an effort to calm himself.

"Follow me." Mr. Sachio spoke in a light tenor unlike the deep bass stereotypical of large men. Gohan did as he was told, and was lead into an adjoining room just as richly decorated and untouchable as the hall. 'Who ever lives here definitely hired a professional decorator and gave express orders to make it pretentious. He wants to impress somebody.' Gohan thought keenly as he toured the room. Mr. Sachio left, presumably to search out the master of this miniature palace.

x

The main color schemes were in blacks and reds. The oriental carpet served to accent the walls, which were red. All the furniture was made with darkly stained wood that was burned for the rustic appearance. Most of the seat covers were black leather or a velvety substance similar to silk but less fine, more accustom to wear. Gohan thought the room looked fairly decent, but what caught his attention the most were the wall hangings. The pictures in the room were all done in black and white and in every one there were martial artists fighting. In between the pictures hung weapons of all sorts: swords, daggers, spears, kunai, shuriken, chucks, and a great multitude of others. Gohan was just studying a picture of a man standing tall with his fists on his hips that was hung above the fireplace mantle when he heard someone running down stairs. Looking around, he spotted the staircase beside the entryway to the room. When he spotted the person coming down the stairs he felt a grin spread across his face unexpectedly.

"I'm so sorry, Ru! I mean, I wanted to come and get you at your house, but they said you had to go through child services and all that, and they wouldn't even let me come over to tell you!" Videl stated, quite empathetically, as she enveloped Gohan in a hug. Gohan shook his head at her and gave her a pointedly quizzical look.

"Don't look at me like that; you should know why I did it. I just knew they'd shove you off, when I found out you were adopted. I just knew the family wouldn't want you. You're too old, and too strange to them." Videl said haughtily. Gohan felt the weight of grief fall upon him once again at the reminder of why he was here.

"Oh, Ru! I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that! Look, I convinced my dad to keep you here, it'll be great publicity for him," she added disdainfully, "And this way you can stay in school and you'll know me here." she finished confidently. Gohan felt his smile return a little, he would know someone; he was going to live with Videl. 'Wow, if anyone had ever told me I'd be happy to live with Hercule Satan, I'd probably have laughed at them and died from a heart attack!'

TBC