DEDICATED to WIGGLE-CHICKEN who HAS DRAWN ME A PIC OF GOHAN BEING STALKED BY A SHADOWY HADRIAN!Chapter
32: Krillin's Obligations
Laugh and cry, live and die,
Life is a dream we are dreaming,
Day by day I find my way,
Look for the soul and the meaning...
Celine Dion-Then You Look At Me
Gohan found himself drifting between the realm of sleep and wakefulness with no idea what brought him to that state. The soft crinkles of over-starched bed sheets were nothing uncommon in the sterile environment of the hospital room. Pale yellow sunbeams of approaching winter failed to faze him on a normal morn as they spilled into the room, either. Breathy exhales, that weren't quite snores, sifted to Gohan's sensitive ears. Apparently the comatose Kaname was not the source of Gohan's abrupt departure from dreamland. Slowly, as if surfacing from the murky depths of the Pacific, a low murmur from across the room established itself within Gohan's awareness. Cracking one eyelid open proved rewarding as the answer to Gohan's internal inquiry presented itself in the form of two strangers. Makekeru and his parents, Gohan assumed, were conversing in low pitched voices in a failed attempt to not disturb the sleeping occupants.
The stoic teenager appeared highly irritable as his face twisted angrily at something his father said. Golden hued skin and raven locks adorned the man Gohan presumed was Makekeru's father; the woman, on the other hand, was of lighter complexion and decidedly Japanese descent.
"...think I want...end...Ta...ko?" the cutting words were spoken so forcefully that parts drifted toward Gohan even as the bald teen attempted to give Makekeru privacy. Makekeru's mother gasped and looked horrified at her husband's odious proclamation but Gohan's attention was almost immediately grabbed by Makekeru's violent lunge for his father. The usually unflappable boy's face was a rictus of unfathomable, unadulterated hatred. Glinting in his eyes was the intent to cause as much hurt and pain as whatever the previous comment had brought to him. Mrs. Chou cried out in alarm, rushing forward to restrain her dangerous son. Mr. Chou stumbled backward, shocked at the ferocious attack.
"You have no right!" Gohan noticed Kaname jerk from sleep to full wakefulness, "Don't you ever talk about Tammi like that again!" Kaname stared, wide-eyed at her psychotic roommate and threw a questioning look toward a cringing Gohan. "Get out! Both of you get out!" Makekeru screamed hysterically. The Chinese youth did not appear entirely sane in Gohan's opinion either.
Makekeru had tossed off his mother's fluttering hands and balled his shaking fists in his blankets as he bellowed at them. Tangled strands of black hair lent a feral look to Makekeru's furious visage making him appear like a rabid dog. Mrs. Chou grabbed onto her husband's arm, whether out of restraint or fear was uncertain but Mr. Chou took a decidedly protective stance in front of her. Makekeru glared nastily
"What are you still doing here? Get out!" he screamed thunderously. Makekeru didn't even give his parents the opportunity to take a step in retreat before he hurled the nearest object—a glass vase full of flowers they brought in just that morning—at them. Mrs. Chou screamed. Mr. Chou grabbed his wife roughly around the waist to pull her out of harms way. The vase shattered ineffectually against the floor sending shards of glass skittering along the linoleum.
Kaname was gapping at Makekeru in astonishment; clearly this was the first altercation of this sort that she'd witnessed. Gohan shivered and wished he could simply crawl under his bed or, better yet, get a room entirely to himself again.
"Why are you doing this baby? I don't understand!" Mrs. Chou wailed distraughtly. Makekeru sneered in reply and flung his hairbrush at her for emphasis. The wooden brush, unlike the glass vase, was right on target. The item struck Mrs. Chou's arm hard enough to cause a bruise. The rather diminutive woman cried out and clutched the wounded appendage as Mr. Chou began to yell at his son.
Just as Gohan began to wonder where the hell security was three men dressed in blue uniforms entered the room along with Dr. Jomei. Makekeru began shouting profanities at his father, who by then was being led out of the room by one of the security guards. Mrs. Chou was also being led away, but unlike Mr. Chou who was shouting back at his son, she was weeping. The third guard approached the frenzied teen to hold him down while Dr. Jomei injected Makekeru with a tranquilizer. Gohan squirmed with the memory of his own sedation.
"There now, everything will be all right." Dr. Jomei soothed Makekeru, rubbing his arms gently. Slowly the thrashing limbs became lethargic and stopped their flailing, the blistering curses became incoherent mumblings before silencing altogether, and the intensely wild eyes became droopy and closed. Within minutes of the drug's administration Makekeru was sleeping soundly. Dr. Jomei calmly dismissed the uniformed man who'd restricted Makekeru's movement and then turned to the remaining occupants of the room. Gohan flinched while Kaname smiled brightly as if she'd banished the violent happenings from her memory already.
"Good thing you were on duty Doc!"
"Yes, thank you for sending the summons, Kaname." Dr. Jomei smiled benignly. Gohan blinked and tried to recall when Kaname had called out to anyone, or even spoken for that matter.
"No problem. Makie was too wrapped up in his little tiff to notice me." Gohan felt lost, left out of the loop. 'How the hell did she get help?' "Actually," Kaname interrupted Gohan's contemplation, "Gohan was awake before I was. How come you didn't press the emergency call button?" Kaname turned her curious gaze to Gohan. 'Emergen...' Gohan felt like smacking himself in the head. Of course there would be an emergency sequence for the regular call button. Gohan glanced to the side of his bed where the call button was and, sure enough, there were the instructions for an emergency.
"That's alright, Gohan, you didn't know. Should something like this happen again though, I want you to call for help, alright?" Dr. Jomei solicited. Gohan nodded haltingly.
"What's going on; is everything alright?" A new voice piped up. Gohan felt his bald eyebrows rise in stunned wonder. In the doorway stood Nariko, looking quite nervous and unsure of herself. Just behind her stood Videl beaming and waving at Gohan.
"Ah, you have company Gohan. I guess we'll be on our way, Kaname?" Dr. Jomei looked pointedly to Kaname who groaned into her pillow.
"Do I have to go? I don't feel like talking today."
"Dr. Kalinin and the others have been waiting patiently for you to join them in the group room." Dr. Jomei intoned pleasantly. Gohan was not fooled by the placid timbre, and neither was Kaname by the looks of it. The usually hyper girl practically oozed from the bed with a muttered, "shit," before shutting herself in the bathroom.
Dr. Jomei's eyes then turned unerringly onto Gohan. The bald teen was forced to hold back a reflexive desire to recoil. From the corner of his eye, Gohan noticed Nariko and Videl step into the room and linger by the door to offer them privacy. Dr. Jomei took a seat on the edge of Gohan's bed, by his feet.
"Gohan," Dr. Jomei began gently but Gohan twitched anyway, "Gohan, do you know who Dr. Kalinin is?" Gohan nodded though he was distracted by the doctor's close proximity. 'Much too close. Why do they always have to be so damn close? Hasn't anyone ever heard of personal space? At least Mirai Trunks understood and he stayed by the door for Kami's sake!' Gohan's hands alternated between twisting anxiously in his sheets and picking at the lint imbedded in his blankets.
"Do you know what she does?"
"Huh?" Gohan's head jerked up from his contemplation of his feet and the distance between them and Dr. Jomei. He wondered if the doctor would take offense should he curl up near the headboard. 'No, he'll have you committed to a psych ward.' Gohan snorted mentally.
"I asked do you know what she does. Do you know what her field is?"
"Dr. Kalinin is a psychiatrist Gohan. She counsels all the terminally ill children and trauma cases in this ward. Kaname and Makekeru are part of a group therapy session that is held three times a week in the afternoon. I want you to attend these sessions starting next week. Mr. Hercule has signed the proper papers and, as you are in the process of being adopted by Mrs. Brief, I've taken the liberty of securing all eventualities by having her sign as well. The first meeting is on Monday. Ready, Kaname?" The last was said to the pixy girl as she emerged chipper as ever from the bathroom. Then Dr. Jomei bid his farewell and followed the bouncing Kaname out of the room. Gohan stared after them wordlessly. 'Therapy?' He wasn't quite sure how he felt about that.
Gohan didn't have much time to ponder the new development, for as soon as he was left alone with an unconscious Makekeru Videl and Nariko approached him. Videl bent smoothly to give him a gentle hug. Before she could pull entirely away from him, though, Gohan cupped her cheek and brought their lips together. Videl allowed the dry pressure for only a moment before inviting a deeper exploration of her mouth. Gohan remained tentative as he lapped leisurely along the smooth, glossy tissue barely inside the warm cavern. Videl's lips curved into a sweet smile under Gohan's ministrations and remained docile during his attentions. There was no need to raise the intensity or passion involved in the kiss. The understanding was there, that embodied in the act were the emotions of gratitude, compassion, and love each partner had for the other. They savored the simplistic union of lips, and when the kiss ultimately ended they both caught the misty-eyed expression on Nariko's face. Gohan blushed but continued to hold Videl close, forcing her to recline against his side on the bed.
"Gohan, I owe you an apology. I'm so very sorry for not visiting you...or even calling. I was just so sc...It was...It was just so hard for me to watch someone else...while I'm..." Nariko struggled for words before finally making a sweeping gesture over herself. In the time Gohan had been hospitalized Nariko's stomach had become quite a bulge. Gohan estimated she was in her fifth month of pregnancy. Miss. Hahn was at the stage where she was not outrageously pregnant but rather questionably pregnant. Gohan realized that though it was her pregnancy that kept her away it was not in the context of her child contracting Leukemia, like he'd originally thought. The evasiveness stemmed from her being with child, preparing to bring life into the world with all the pride and joy implied, while he, Gohan, was slowly dying in a hospital bed.
In that moment of clarity Gohan forgave the woman and opened his arms. Nariko fell into the embrace gratefully with a small self-conscious sound that resembled a laugh turned cry. Gohan didn't need the hug, in fact he felt very ill at ease in the embrace, but the relief in Nariko's watery eyes showed just how much she'd needed the physical proof of his forgiveness. Gohan resolved himself not to mind the close proximity. From over Nariko's shoulder Gohan caught Videl smiling like the cat that got the cream; he scowled good naturedly at her and she winked in reply.
"Good. Now that we've got together we can talk semantics. First off, do you think you'll be allowed to come to the wedding?" Videl turned a mischievous gaze onto Gohan. 'Dear God, what have I gotten myself into?' Gohan blanched.
Later that evening, after Videl and Nariko left—still discussing the various bridesmaid attire available and the colors entailed—Gohan received more guests. Makekeru had since woken up and was composedly reading a book; he hadn't once mentioned or apologized for his previous behavior. Kaname had returned from her therapy session and began a round of treatment. Despite her perpetually energetic disposition, Gohan soon realized that the drugs affected Kaname the same if not worse then they affected him.
Kaname lay prone in her bed trying her best not to move as the result would inevitably be a heaving jag into the bucket on the side of her bed. Gohan was catching up on his school work, having no desire to repeat his senior year, when there was a soft knock on the door. The three occupants glanced over as the door opened a crack to reveal Yamcha and Krillin. Makekeru snapped his book closed and set it on his bedside table, gathered his toiletries, and shut himself in the adjoining bathroom. Kaname winced and closed her puffy red eyes in an attempt to sleep. Gohan suspected that she had a headache from the medication.
"Gohan, can we come in?" Krillin stage whispered. Yamcha gripped his hands nervously and focused more on Kaname's pained expression than Gohan.
"Will they bother you Kaname?" Gohan asked courteously, allowing some of his concern to show through.
Gohan thought his own treatments were uncomfortable, what with the fatigue, nausea, anemia, bruises, and baldness, but looking at Kaname he could see that he got off lightly. Makekeru explained before that Kaname suffered nausea, fever, rashes, headaches, dizzy spells, coughing, eye pain, numbness, and tingling. She was actually allergic to one of the medications but it was necessary and the effects were not life threatening so Kaname was forced to deal. The only saving grace was that she was on a regime that didn't require her to take the debilitating drug everyday.
" Ish fine Go'n." Kaname slurred breathily and then coughed violently for a few moments. Gohan was only thankful that she did not throw up again; as selfish as it was to say, Gohan didn't need anyone prompting his own queasiness into action.
Upon hearing her grant permission, the two fighters entered the room and drew two chairs to Gohan's bedside. Gohan cringed internally but plastered a faltering smile on his face for their benefit. Facts were, the two men before him were about as scared as Gohan himself and the ill boy could see it plain as day. Krillin sat on the edge of his seat which related how unsure and cautious he felt. Contrarily Yamcha sat deeply in the mesh material and looked everywhere with the exception of where Gohan was. The famous Bandit turned pro ball player was highly uncomfortable and Gohan began to suspect his desire to be there. Gohan wouldn't put it past Bulma to send them over to apologize for earlier or for Krillin to drag a resisting Yamcha along just to keep from going alone. Gohan and Yamcha were never really that close to begin with, even before the Cell Games, and his presence was the incongruity. 'All right, enough with the awkward silence.' Gohan determined ungraciously.
"Get it over with." Gohan ordered tersely. His gravely voice served as the gunshot before a race. Startled, Krillin choked and Yamcha jerked in his seat.
"W-What?" Yamcha managed to get out as his eyes scuttled across Gohan's features only to return to their aimless wanderings a second later. Krillin cleared his throat subtly and looked decidedly guarded.
"I know Bulma sent you to apologize for that...'Reunion'." The capitalization was clearly discerned in Gohan's tone and the distasteful expression on his face. Yamcha blushed, crossed his arms over his chest apprehensively, and frowned. The position barely lasted half a minute before Yamcha was on his feet and leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets and his head ducked evasively downward.
Krillin did not appear contrite in the least, instead he appeared more collected as he leaned forward in his seat. It took a will of reinforced steel to keep Gohan from bolting out of his bed to escape the frighteningly confidant male invading his space.
"I'm sorry for knocking you down buddy, but I won't pretend it hasn't been a long time. You aren't the same Gohan I once knew." At this pronouncement Gohan found himself unable to look Krillin in the eyes. "The Gohan I knew would have thrown his arms around me while smiling brightly and offering a greeting in return," Gohan glowered darkly to the side, "Of course, not all of the changes were caused by...your absence." Krillin said with sensitive calculation, only implying what each knew he meant to say. Gohan really wanted to sneer at Krillin's roundabout way of saying rape, but he was too humiliated by Krillin's first cutting remark to give strength to his anger. "You changed after Goku died," Gohan winced as a pang echoed in his breast, "You wouldn't let anyone in. I tried to talk to you but you pushed me away. You pushed all of us away." Krillin would have gone on but for Gohan's outburst.
"What the hell was I supposed to do? I was a fucking obligationto all of you! Do you honestly think I didn't see the way you all talked about me with each other? What can we do? Oh, poor Gohan! He killed his father and now he's depressed; why don't one of you go and talk to him?" Gohan's voice grew more cynical and spiteful in his imitations. Yamcha's fists balled within the pockets of his orange gi and his expression became progressively darker. "Well fuck you all! I didn't need your pity! You're right, I'm not Gohan anymore! I'm Sesshomaru and you don't owe me a goddamn thing!" Gohan highlighted scornfully. Yamcha suddenly pushed away from the wall and stormed out of the room without so much as a backward glance or a word edgewise. "That's right! I'm not your fucking responsibility!" Gohan shouted after the retreating figure, cultivating the anger within his breast to cover up the pain caused by the rejection, the abandonment. After all, everyone would leave eventually.
"That's where you're wrong Gohan," Krillin cut in looking very grave, "You are our responsibility and you always will be. I have an obligation to Goku—who saved my life innumerable times—to ensure his son grows into a man knowing the difference between what is right and wrong. I have my debt to you—for saving my life a handful of other times—which I intend to reimburse by saving your life. I have a commitment to your mother's memory to see you grow into a respectable young man. And, finally I have my duty to you as your friend to stand by you through your hardships. I won't allow you to do what you are attempting to do. I let you push me away once and you came out of that misjudgment miserable, abused, and suicidal. I promise to you that will not happen again, ever." Krillin finished with a fierce sheen to his penetrating gaze.
Gohan scrutinized his hands intently though his heart pulsated with conflicting feelings of betrayal, disbelief and hope. Could he really accept Krillin's word? Gohan truly wanted to believe his father's childhood friend but his deep-seeded fear of being forsaken threatened to sprout and grow with abandon. It wouldn't be the first time he was left to the wayside, only a passing thought and apparently one of little value at that.
"I can't...trust you." Gohan finally croaked. He raised painfully deadened eyes to Krillin's and saw not resentment but an understanding and a willingness to accept shining forth.
"I'm not expecting you to fall into a friendship with me as if nothing happened, Gohan. You aren't the only one who's changed. Goku's death had an effect on everyone around him including myself. I'm not the same person you knew then either. I like to think I grew up a little, probably one of the few things, if not the only thing good that came out of such a tragedy. Your father always had a way of making me act half my age." Gohan was able to accept the truthful and somewhat unkind words as they were said with a fond humor.
Gohan wasn't oblivious to the fact his father had been, to some extent, an ignorant farm boy. That had actually been part of his charm. The raw innocence and the openness to imagine the good in everyone was what drew people to Goku. He'd had charisma and a strong sense of what was right and wrong, and what was necessary. His greatest virtue was his willingness to give second chances without having prejudices or holding grudges. Sadly that proved to be his greatest vice at the same time. As many times as Gohan cursed himself for his father's death, he often wondered, had his father killed Dr. Giro when he'd had the chance as a child, would Goku have died? Ultimately Gohan deduced that he was simply trying to transfer the blame and resumed castrating himself for his failure to kill Cell.
"He was...a great man though, my father." Gohan looked out the window to the star-studded sky outside. He searched himself for the familiar feel of self-loathing but could feel nothing beyond regret and wistful longing. He was just so tired, physically and mentally.
"Goku was one of a kind alright, phenomenal even." Krillin agreed somberly. Gohan glanced over at his one-time friend and really took the time to look at him. The years had aged him in ways not directly apparent on the surface. A head full of hair was an obvious indication of time passing but it actually made him appear younger than before. Krillin's height had always underscored his probable age and would presumably continue to do so until Krillin came to be Master Roshi's age. The real tells however, lay around the eyes and with the way he carried himself.
Gohan remembered his father telling him that Krillin had been a very serious child, he'd always doubted Goku after meeting the vigorous man for the first time. Now however, Gohan could see the self-assurance and the ease with which Krillin fit in his skin. Nine, or even eight, years ago Krillin had always appeared nervous or unsure of himself as if being an adult didn't quite sit well with him. He'd been like a teenager eager for adulthood but not quite mature enough to pass it off. Sitting in front of him today was a man well versed in the disappointing truths the world had to offer, life isn't fair.
The dark eyes reflected this fact of reality, offering it to all those looking for some concrete and reliable advice. Unfortunately that was one piece of truth people had to learn for themselves because only those who knew that fact could read it in another's eyes. Gohan recognized it for what it was because he understood it, quite intimately in fact. Gohan could only deduce that the past years had been trying on his old friend.
"You look like shit Krillin. As much as I appreciate you coming, I hear you have a kid. Go home to your wife and go to sleep." Gohan ordered tenderly. He wasn't a little tired himself and could do with a few hours of shut-eye, at least before the nightmares came.
For the first time that evening and since the bombshell of Gohan's abuse Krillin genuinely smiled.
"You're one to talk. You need to eat more and get some real sleep," Krillin frowned in concern, "Don't they have anything they can give you? For the nightmares, I mean?" Krillin questioned gently to portray his wish not to offend Gohan if he disliked the line of questioning. Gohan sighed before slowly shaking his head.
"I can't mix drugs. Besides, they'd become addictive and I'd rather not get into a situation where I'd contemplate overdosing." Gohan answered honestly, voice soft though deep. Krillin nodded supportively and then stood, stretching.
"In that case, try to get as much rest as you can. I'll be on my way." Krillin nodded farewell; on some level he'd noticed Gohan's aversion to being touched and respected that boundary. He was almost to the door when he turned back toward the fragile looking boy in the bed.
"Her name's Marron and she's four…my daughter. And, if I could have one wish for her it would be that she grows up as strong and caring as you are." Krillin intoned sincerely, his eyes not wavering once from Gohan's. Finally Gohan nodded in acknowledgement and Krillin slipped from the room.
After the door closed behind Krillin Gohan lay back and contemplated what had been said and promised. Kaname's soft breathing was a soothing background to his thoughts. Glancing over, Gohan was pleased to see the tiny girl resting easy. He really was growing fond of the impish creature and felt really bad seeing her suffering with the drugs. Makekeru was also sleeping soundly, having finished his shower and curled under the blankets of his bed during Gohan's visit. He oddly reminded Gohan of Vegeta with his arrogance and irritable disposition. And, just like Vegeta, he had currents that ran deeper than anyone thought. As the faint rhythmic breathing lulled Gohan to slumber he dreamt up a memory of a Saiyan Prince's tears.
Chapter 33: Wedding Bells and Therapy Hell
Frightened to believe,
You're the best thing about me
Walk on broken glass make my way through fire,
These are the things I would do for love,
Farewell peace of mind kiss goodbye to reason,
Up is down the impossible occurs each day,
This intoxication thrills me,
I only pray it doesn't kill me...
Savage Garden-The Best Thing
"Crap! Has anyone seen my heels?" Videl lifted a pillow off the settee and promptly dropped it again; "They've got crossing straps, colored in an off-white pearly tone." Videl continued distractedly as she searched under the selfsame furniture.
Gohan watched with interest as his official girlfriend was forced to stoop elegantly, instead of bend over—as was her custom in jeans and shorts—to look under the furnishings. She was decked out in a beautiful satin Poie De Soier dress the rich hue of pink rose petals which thwarted her more crass mannerisms. The sleeveless sheath draped gracefully around Videl's figure as a cowl exposed the smooth expanse of her back. Silken ringlets of midnight mane—result from many painstaking hours sitting still under hot irons—were drawn into an elaborate style with pink and white carnations inlaid. Gohan was utterly enthralled.
"Gohan, you haven't seen them have you?" Videl stopped short in front of Gohan looking rather harried. Gohan stared at her with an expression of wide-eyed innocence.
"How could I know? I've been sitting here since we arrived. Unless, of course, you haven't moved them from under the dresser where you put them to begin with; then I might have a clue." Videl whirled on the tail end of Gohan's sarcastic remark to find her heels exactly where Gohan pointed out she'd left them. "I swear you'd forget me if I wasn't so charming and helpful."
"Make that whiney and short and you'd be getting somewhere." Videl quipped with a lethal smirk as she hiked up her dress to strap on the heels.
Instead of mock pouting or defending himself as Videl thought he would, Gohan remained silent. Videl glanced up and caught the frown on Gohan's visage before his expression dropped to his lap.
"Gohan? What is it; what's wrong?" Videl queried with a touch of worry, quickly coming to sit on a footrest before Gohan's wheelchair and clasping his hands in hers.
"It's nothing." Gohan murmured evasively.
"C'mon Gohan, it's never nothing. I could be giving you flashbacks that would make Nietzsche tremble!" Videl encouraged exasperatedly. Gohan snorted and met her eyes.
"Nietzsche, Videl?" He sounded almost amused.
"What? He's some important dead guy who became deranged later in his life," Gohan's eyes narrowed, "Perhaps I should've used Edger Allen Poe or Picasso? They both had some serious issues too," Videl huffed, "I'm getting off topic, but the point is that you can tell me what's bothering you. I swear I won't call you short again if that insults your ego, I know you aren't really three feet tall." Videl's words had a teasing edge to try to curb around the more serious implications of her statement. Gohan appreciated the effort.
"No, no it's not that...it's just," Gohan sighed, "Look, I've been sitting in this damn chair for near five hours now and my back is killing me. They don't exactly make these for comfort, you know." Gohan admitted quite churlishly. Videl's eyes widened fractionally with understanding and she was instantly contrite.
"Oh Gohan, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean it about the whining, honestly. I mean...shit! I completely forgot you had a spinal injection this week. What with all the rushed planning...no, never mind, I won't make up excuses. That chair has got to be digging into you in all the wrong places. How about we..."
"Oh Videl, you look absolutely fabulous! Do you think I look pale in," the voice stopped abruptly with a gasp, "Sesshomaru? Wow, it's been like ages since we've seen you! You look like the walking dead again, especially being bald; haven't you been eating?" Erasa breezed into the room and brushed her hand against Gohan's forehead without so much as a by-your-leave.
"Yeah, you'd think people wouldn't be able to starve in a hospital. It'd have to be nerd-boy who found a way around all the doctors." Sharpner added mockingly from the doorway. Gohan transferred his glare from Erasa to Sharpner and held out a wrist as if to say, so feed me through a needle. Videl rolled her eyes.
"Huh, cracking jokes and giving everyone the glare-o-death, I pronounce you in good health." Erasa exclaimed with a patronizing pat on Gohan's head. Gohan gave a long suffering sigh which only served to make Erasa giggle.
"You're just in time Sharpner, come help me with Ru. We need to get him out of that chair for a while, maybe put him on the couch on his side?" Videl beckoned imperiously.
"Hey! I didn't come here to get roped into doing manual labor! This is all your doing you little geek." Sharpner yelped before glowering at Gohan who smirked in self-satisfaction.
"Oh please, he isn't that heavy. I'll even move the wheelchair right next to the couch, see?" Videl unclipped the breaks on Gohan's transportation and wheeled him flush against the cushy sofa. Sharpner continued to pout but relented after Erasa expressed her desire to see his big, strong muscles at work.
"Alright, alright, out of my way Videl, although I don't know why you want me to do this considering you're even stronger than I am." Sharpner didn't notice Gohan stiffen as he slipped one arm under Gohan's legs and the other around his back to lift him. With a grunt, Gohan was relocated onto the couch.
"Ha! You don't really expect me to lift Sesshomaru wearing these high heels, do you? With luck I wouldn't break anything besides my ankles!" Videl scoffed. Sharpner gave a bark of laughter as he finished helping Gohan settle onto his side. Gohan relaxed slightly as Sharpner stepped out of his personal space.
"I'm astounded you can even walk in those," Sharpner raised both hands in surrender when Videl advanced on him, "Really, I'm truly impressed!"
"Sharpner!" Videl lunged at Sharpner in order to punch him on the arm but over balanced and had to throw her arms about his neck instead to keep herself from falling to the floor. This only served to amuse Sharpner ten-fold.
"I'm going to kill you Sharpner!" Videl screeched even as she attempted and failed to gain her footing.
Erasa was giggling insanely at their antics and Gohan tried desperately to keep a straight face as a show of fidelity. He lasted approximately two seconds before he sniggered most ungraciously.
"Yeah, laugh it up Mister! Just wait and see if you get a good-night kiss from me." Videl hissed scathingly from her continued hold on Sharpner's frame.
"Aw c'mon Videl," Gohan's voice warbled comically with his effort to suppress his laughter, "You have to admit it is funny." Sharpner and Erasa did a double take for they had never heard Gohan speak, but at Videl's nonchalance they quickly got over it.
"No, it's hilarious." Sharpner managed to keep a straight face. Erasa and Gohan cracked up into more peals of laughter while Videl took the risk of a spill to punch Sharpner in the shoulder.
"Watch it little-Miss-Priss or I really will dump you." Sharpner taunted.
"Oh," one of Videl's eyebrows rose in question, "And how will you explain to my father how my dress got all filthy and I couldn't participate in the wedding?"
"He'll probably just tell him you were being yourself." Gohan interjected. Erasa gasped with delight and clamped a hand over her mouth to stem the hilarity before Videl could decapitate her with a razor-sharp glare alone. Sharpner sent a devilish grin Gohan's way for the aiding comment.
"Sesshomaru." Videl ground her teeth and fisted her hands. Sharpner winked from behind her at Gohan; Videl hadn't realized she was standing on her own yet.
"You're skating on thin ice, buddy." Videl growled warningly. Gohan did his level best to raise his hands in surrender as Sharpner had. The best he could do was leave the arm folded under him where it was with an open palm and hold the other a shoulder's breadth away also open handed.
"But Videl, I can't even stand on solid ground, let alone skate on ice!"
"It's an expression!" Videl shouted, throwing her hands up in vexation, although all the teenagers caught the glint of humor in her eyes.
"You wouldn't really strike a handicapped person would you?" Gohan asked in an over-exaggerated wounded voice. Videl stalked up to him with faked menace.
"You bet I would." Videl barely tapped Gohan's shoulder with a fist which he was obliged to rub as if it had hurt. In the next instant Videl swooped in for a kiss. Gohan parted his lips cooperatively while effectively ignoring Erasa's dreamy sigh and Sharpner's over-pronounced gagging. Erasa's affronted voice sounded tinny to Gohan's ears and Sharpner's husky answer barely grazed Gohan's awareness.
"Mmm, I think I've found a new way to protect myself from your barbed tongue." Videl murmured inches from pulling away from the kiss. Gohan could feel her breathy exhales on his moistened lips.
"Feel free to shut me up anytime." Gohan whispered, his lips curving into an easy smile. Videl burst out laughing and consequently fell against Gohan who had a look of chagrin on his face.
"I-I'm sorry Ru," muffled snickering, "That was just such a priceless invitation; I couldn't help myself!"
"It was meant to secure me another kiss not a peanut gallery." Gohan muttered.
"Aw, poor baby, do you want a hug?" Videl simpered.
"Now you're just being condescending." Gohan frowned and looked aside to where Erasa and Sharpner were engaged in their own lip-lock. Videl spied them out of the corner of her eye but ignored them in favor of bringing her lips to Gohan's left temple.
"I am sorry. If it'll make you feel better we can neck in the car on the way back to the hospital, how's that?" Gohan turned his attention back to his girlfriend and allowed a tiny half-smile to grace his lips.
"Do I get a goodnight kiss too?"
"Yeah, I'll even tuck you in." Videl offered amiably.
"I'd like that." Gohan admitted quietly. Videl grinned and cuddled further into Gohan's loose embrace.
"You really shouldn't do that; you'll muss up your hair." Gohan fingered one of the curls, straightening it to make it spring back when he let go.
"Missing your hair nerd-boy?" Sharpner drawled. He and Erasa had finished swapping spit and, of course, the jock needed something to occupy his time. Nothing was more entertaining than making fun of the bald kid. Gohan scowled.
"Sharpner, that was cruel. They were cuddling, too." Erasa chastised mildly. Before Sharpner could open his mouth to deliver a sarcastic come-back, no doubt, the teens were interrupted by a knock on the doorframe. Standing in the doorway was one of the other bridesmaids. 'I think Nariko introduced her as Sakura Tsujitani, a cousin.' Gohan watched the woman attentively.
"Sorry to break up your little romantic moment guys, but the bride needs her girl brigade." Sakura announced with a keen look at Videl and Erasa.
"Uh-oh, someone's been neglecting her maidly duties." Gohan stage whispered. The teens all burst out laughing, even Videl, though she was blushing at the remark.
"Are ya comin' ladies or am I to face the wrath of a pregnant woman alone?"
"Of course not! We would never abandon you to the will of a craving-driven, hormone-imbalanced, pre-wedding-jittered Nariko!" Videl professed passionately. Sakura swiped a hand over her brow as if in relief.
"Thank Kami!" They all chuckled.
"Ok guys; guess we're off to do our bridesmaid duties. Keep yourselves amused until the ceremony. Oh, I almost forgot! Sesshomaru, you're supposed to go to the reception hall before the wedding starts. That would be right now. Sharpner, you'll help him right?"
"No, I'll leave him right here and wheel an empty chair to the room." The sarcasm was dripping.
"Then be sure to come back and get Ru on the second trip!" Videl called out smartly as she and Erasa left the room. Sharpner stared at the empty doorway for a long moment after they'd gone.
"Don't. Say. A word." Sharpner cut Gohan off. Erasa could hear Gohan laughing all the way down the corridor.
Gohan allowed Sharpner to wheel him to the threshold of the reception hall, but then he stubbornly insisted on going in alone. Sharpner was more than willing to shrug off the duty and walked away muttering about how unbearably long weddings were. Gohan, watching until the blonde head rounded the corner, turned his gaze back to the door. It stood slightly ajar, as if someone had slipped through and not bothered to close it properly again. Gohan could hear voices within. Taking a deep breath, he turned the knob and opened the door wide.
The minute Gohan wheeled himself into the room the soft murmuring ceased. Gohan glanced up, meeting the eyes of Vegeta who stood, amazingly, with his arms curled under a wide-eyed Goten's bottom. Bulma froze mid-gesture facing Hercule, but her head turned at Gohan's entrance to acknowledge the intruder.
"Gohan! Didja hear? You're my new big brother!" Goten shouted excitedly. If Gohan hadn't been staring so intently at Vegeta he would've overlooked the unconsciously possessive way the Prince's arms tightened around his youngest son. But, there was no mistaking the flash of warning in Vegeta's eyes; Gohan was positive that was intentionally displayed for his perusal.
"I believe I heard something along those lines." Gohan smiled tentatively. Bulma and Goten practically beamed at his almost negligible response. Vegeta bristled slightly and Gohan felt the urge to apologize for his hesitancy.
"Momma and Papa are just doin' the par-tic-a-lers." Goten stumbled uncertainly.
"We're having you signed over to our custody." Bulma explained with a nervous smile.
"On my wedding day no less." Hercule grumbled, put-upon. It only took a glare from Bulma to quell the man. "Of course, whatever is convenient for you Mrs. Brief." Hercule assured with a buoyant laugh that was obviously forced.
Gohan caught Vegeta's prideful smirk even as he tried to hide the one threatening to blossom on his own lips. Hercule was dressed almost comically in a white tux with a pink carnation tucked in his lapel. Despite his officious behavior Gohan could see the nervous fidgeting and barely suppressed excitement in Hercule's features. This was a man in love with the woman he was pledging the rest of his life to in mere moments.
"I'm most appreciative Mr. Satan," Bulma intoned with false sincerity, "You'll be relieved to go on your honeymoon without this intruding on your mind." Vegeta snorted derisively. Gohan was quick to note that Bulma's scowl had absolutely no affect on the Saiyan Prince.
The hall was decked out in magenta and lavender swathes of silk drapery with crystal icicles hanging intermittent throughout. A long white carpet lead up to the altar and the side benches were intricately weaved wicker painted an opaque off-white. Set sporadically along the sides of the room were short column-pedestals showcasing exquisite ice sculptures. The running theme consisted of dainty fairies and water nymphs that were so magnificently carved they stole the breath right from you.
Raised behind the altar was the culinary masterpiece of the wedding cake. The seven tiered treat was swaddled in snowy icing with wreaths of gemstone magenta and lavender carnations. Upon closer inspection Gohan noticed the flowers were not frosted but genuine jewels inlaid along the edges of the tiers. Even the sparse greenery was made up of flecks of jade and emerald stone. This was truly the wedding of a billionaire. Gohan would've gagged at the expense except for what the gesture symbolized on the part of Hercule. The man obviously loved Nariko to the extent that he would lavish her with a dream wedding that would bankrupt a village on any given day.
Sitting along one row of benches, waiting for the ceremony to start, Gohan noticed the guests were dressed in their finest; and among Hercule's friends, the finest consisted of foreign markets and unpronounceable name brands. Half the women wore bizarre gowns tailored specifically for them, with unique and scarce material, by some high standing and equally inaccessible fashion designer who charged exorbitant amounts for what amounted to a nice dress that could've been bought at the Square Mall for not even a fraction of the price. He had listened to them gossip. Gohan couldn't talk though; after all, Videl and Nariko dressed him in Armani which, he noted with rather malicious satisfaction, had become wrinkled and sweaty by the time the procession arrived.
The hubbub raised by the legion of reporters covering the momentous occasion of the Savior's wedding alerted the guests to the arrival of the procession. Everyone turned in their chairs to get a better look. In the back of the isle they could see Nariko's little cousins serving as flower girls. There were three little girls below the age of six dressed in frilly pink and white outfits carrying pretty wicker baskets full of pink and white rose petals. They walked carefully down the isle dropping tiny fistfuls of petals as they smiled angelically at all the attention they were getting. The smallest one, who couldn't be any older than four, ran out of flowers halfway to the altar. With a worried little pout—Gohan heard the woman beside him simper about how cute it was—she turned around and began stooping down to collect some of the dropped flowers.
Several of the congregation chuckled with amusement as the girl's father tried to quietly encourage her to continue with her companions. Of course, the media was right along the isle taking snap-shot after snap-shot of the endearing child. Despite her father's gentle remonstrations the girl would not be convinced to abandon her task. Gohan felt a tender smile tug at his mouth when she nibbled her bottom lip in frustration. It wasn't until a vigilant usher brought some extra petals that the girl caught up with her cousins, to the relief of the agitated parental figure.
It was with a bit of surprise that people noticed the maids of honor, a troupe of six, making their way down the isle, so focused were they on the wayward flower girl. Gohan knew that two of the women were Nariko's sisters and the mothers of the flower girls; another was Nariko's aunt not by blood but emotional connection; and the fourth was her best friend. Videl and Erasa rounded out the six and lead the procession. All of them were bedecked in their pastel dresses and carried bouquets of pink and white roses and carnations. In the language of flowers they signified innocence, purity, youthfulness, spiritual love, anticipation of happiness, and a joyous union.
Videl beamed as she passed Gohan, and he felt a satin-gloved hand stroke his shoulder tenderly before she moved on. He stared hard at her elegant back and missed the slight nod and wink Erasa tossed to Sharpner. 'I'm so glad she's accepted Nariko. She looks so pleased to be in the wedding, she would've regretted not coming if she'd stayed stubborn.' Gohan turned his attention back to the isle in time to catch sight of Nariko and all thought abandoned him.
Nariko wore a sleeveless organza gown the lightest shade of pink that could be manufactured. The dress was richly embroidered with beads, sequins, and pearls in a rosy-colored floral design that trailed around the top and waist before tapering off to the right, leaving the left side, below the knee, and the chapel train bare. The dress made Nariko look as if she were floating, a kind of ephemeral sprite about to dissipate if she ever set foot on solid ground. The square neckline and spaghetti straps brought attention to the warm glow of Nariko's beautiful skin and enticed the eyes to her face.
She smiled serenely as she fairly glided down the isle. Her face was tastefully decorated with makeup and her hair was done up similar to Videl's except she had two pink roses and sprigs of snowy baby's breath in her hair. Her arm was tucked around her father's; he was a stubborn-looking man with salt and pepper hair who was proudly giving his youngest daughter away. Gohan could see the moisture in the man's eyes and felt an ache for his own parents. They would never see him married or with children or grandchildren; they were gone from him forever. Gohan shook his head derisively, 'Here you are whining about all these missed opportunities and you don't even know if you'll live out the year."
Gohan watched on with pleasure as the priest began the traditional ceremony. It was rather endearing when they exchanged vows they wrote specially for each other. Gohan caught Videl wiping at glistening eyes when they kissed and the heartfelt laughter that followed when Hercule picked up his beautiful wife and twirled her around in his arms. Yes, Gohan should be grateful that he had the chance to witness this occasion where a small part of Videl's heart, which was irreparably damaged with the loss of her mother, could be partially mended. Gohan was content.
"Oh, and then he says, and get this, he says, 'What are you, leukemic or something?' And, I say to him, with a straight face mind you, 'Yeah, actually, I am.' God, you should've seen the look on his face. Priceless!" the mousy looking boy grinned as Kaname and two other patients Gohan didn't know laughed uproariously. Gohan didn't really find the story all that amusing, but that could be because he didn't find anything funny about having cancer. Kaname and the nameless faces beside her didn't seem to have any reservations though because they continued to laugh like it was the funniest stand-up they'd ever heard.
Beside him Makekeru made a snide comment under his breath.
"Oh, grow up Keru! Just because you're set in gloom and doom doesn't mean you should project it onto others. If you don't have anything nice to say then keep it to yourself." Kaname scowled in annoyance. The three other patients looked warily at Makekeru and Gohan got the impression they were intimidated by the severe youth.
"Just because I'm not in lunatic land where everything is peaches and cream, and the dying young are cheerful, hyper, bug-eyed, little misfits, does not mean my opinion should be discounted out of hand." Makekeru snarled viciously. Kaname looked like she'd been slapped.
"You're a fucking jerk Makekeru! Why can't you lay off her? She doesn't do anything to you!" A tall youth about a year or two older than Gohan put a protective arm around Kaname and glared at Makekeru. He had a shaggy thatch of brown hair that hung in his chestnut eyes making him appear dangerous. Makekeru snorted and glared stonily forward, ignoring the boy completely.
"You better look at me when I'm talking to you!" the boy snagged the front of Makekeru's shirt and pulled him ruthlessly forward until they were bare inches apart. Gohan, who had leaned backward when the aggressive boy first spoke, flinched and tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. The sweaty palms of his hands lay at the sides of his seat as his fingers gripped his chair until the knuckles turned blue.
Everyone was staring at the commotion now. The attention was only making Gohan more skittish; he felt himself trembling. It was Monday and Gohan's first foray in group therapy. He wished he hadn't come. They were in a lecture room with chairs set in an amphitheater style. When he'd asked Kaname why there was such a room in the hospital she explained that there was a medical school attached to the hospital itself and the room was used by lecturers for undergraduate students. At the moment it was filled with terminally ill children, filled being a misnomer. There were a total of eleven children ranging in ages from fifteen to eighteen. Gohan knew there had to be more terminally ill cases then those present and Kaname confirmed it when she spoke of a friend in a separate therapy group. Gohan figured they had to keep the groups small so they'd be manageable. He wished they'd realize this one was obviously too large and take him out of it. Makekeru was looking bored which was only spurring on the opposite boy's anger and Gohan feared violence was impending.
"Daani, it's..." Kaname began to murmur at the tall boy's elbow.
"What, may I ask, is going on here?" Several students jumped at the reprimanding voice. Gohan was too focused on trying to keep the tenuous hold on his sanity to pay much attention. Daani released Makekeru as if he'd been burned and took a halting step backward.
"You know I don't tolerate violence of any kind Mr. Motou. Return to your seat at once." Daani bowed his head but it was clear he wasn't apologetic.
"He started it." the boy grumbled darkly. Makekeru sneered back at him.
"I'm disappointed in you both; especially with a new face among us." This drew everyone's attention to Gohan who had not acknowledged anything since the psychiatrist's entrance.
Gohan had his eyes closed tightly and was rocking imperceptibly back and forth mumbling under his breath. Dr. Kalinin shot Daani and Makekeru a severe look that had both boys shifting uncomfortably in their chairs. Gohan remained oblivious as he fought with rising memories.
"Sesshomaru? You're all right hon. Open your eyes Mr. Hashuko." Dr. Kalinin approached Gohan slowly as she beckoned softly to him. When she reached his chair, the psychiatrist knelt before him and for the first time discerned his mumbling.
"Videl, help me! Videl, help me! Videl, help me! Videl..." Over and over the mantra continued in a breathless hitching tumble. Gohan's hands still clutched the chair with bruising strength and his face was a rictus of fear.
"He, he prefers to be called Gohan, Doctor." Kaname offered hesitantly.
"Thank you Kaname," Dr. Kalinin nodded in gratitude and turned her attention back to Gohan, "Gohan. Gohan sweetie, it's Dr. Kalinin, can you hear me hon?" The other patients shared gazes and watched on.
"Videl, help me! Videl, help me!"
"Gohan, please open your eyes. No one is going to hurt you." Dr. Kalinin reached out to touch Gohan but hesitated and retracted her hand before she did. Every patient noted the hand that curled into a fist and the frustrated exhale that escaped her with a burst of airy sound.
"Videl, help me! Videl, help me! Videl, help..."
"Gohan, how was the wedding? I heard Videl asked you to dance," Gohan's breathy whisperings faltered, "You must have made an impression because Dr. Jomei says Videl was talking about you all night," Gohan became silent all together, "It's always a plus when a pretty girl mentions you," Gohan's eyes opened and looked around in confusion, "Videl's your girlfriend isn't she?" Gohan stared blankly at the doctor for a moment before he nodded dumbly.
"Y-Yeah. I...Well I have to admit, she did all the work." Gohan murmured with a self-depreciating smile. Dr. Kalinin realized he was talking about the dancing and smiled in return.
"I bet she enjoyed every bit of it, having a man slave to her every whim." Dr. Kalinin winked conspiratorially at Kaname, drawing in the rest of the students with the simple gesture. Gohan's smile faltered momentarily and his eyes clouded with hints of trauma before he firmly shook his head and grinned at the doctor.
"If she wants to think it was her idea to ferry me around, who am I to disillusion her?" Several of the male patients burst out laughing in a single breath of released tension they hadn't realized they'd been holding. Immediately the girls began to exclaim haughtily about egotistical boys and the boys retaliated with sexist remarks of their own. The topic was never turned to anyone's terminal illness and Dr. Kalinin did not try to make Gohan discuss his almost flashback. It wasn't until later that Gohan realized how adeptly the psychiatrist handled the situation or how truly grateful he was that she allowed him to ease into the sessions with that first bonding experience.
WARNING: This chapter contains references to a consensual male/male relationship (not pertaining to Gohan) so if you are squick, go away. In fact, how the heck did you get this far! For those open-minded, free-loving readers out there, enjoy the chapter!
Chapter 34: Fallout
Welcome to the planet
Welcome to existence
Everybody's watching you now
Everybody waits for you now
What happens next? (2x)
I dare you to move (x2)
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move (x2)
Like today never happened
Today never happened before
Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here (x2)
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be
Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here
Switchfoot: I Dare You To Move
What I had not foreseen
Was the gradual day
Weakening the will
Leaking the brightness away,
The lack of good to touch
The fading of body and soul
Like smoke before wind
Stephen Spender-What I Expected
The weeks following Gohan's first foray into therapy passed unremarkably; chemo was dispensed and the psychiatrist was endured. Gohan was still not quite comfortable among the other patients in his group, his "reaper-buddies" Kaname called them. But, he was slowly coming to know the others as more than strangers; that's not to say he felt any desire to confide in them his deepest secrets. The struggle between him and Dr. Kalinin was an ongoing endeavor. In the meantime, like all humans on earth, Gohan adapted to his new companions Kaname and Makekeru. The polar opposites became standard fixtures in his life and often invaded his thoughts. With the exception of the rising tension concerning Goten's test results, life was slightly above bearable.
December dawned with a light snowfall and marked the end of Gohan's second month in the hospital; Kaname suggested they throw a party to commemorate his survival. Typically, Makekeru found the whole idea offensive and declared he wouldn't speak to her for the rest of the afternoon. Gohan took note of how tetchy the stern boy was becoming, more so than before, whenever Kaname made light of their disease. Videl, on the other hand, endorsed the proposal wholeheartedly, claiming Gohan needed some excitement in his life. Gohan recognized the ploy for what it was, a distraction meant to alleviate his stress levels caused by over-due test results. Exactly a month elapsed since Goten was tested. Precisely fifteen days ago the results were declared over-due. Unerringly three-hundred-sixty hours slipped away without word. Faithfully Gohan fret for the interminable twenty-one-thousand-six-hundred seconds in between that moment and this one. He was still counting.
"Come on, Gohan; it'll be fun. We can even invite Sharpner and Erasa." Videl coaxed her silent partner with an arm thrown over his bare shoulders. As she wheedled, Videl gripped the shoulder nearest her hand and gave him a small shake. Gohan threw her a dubious look.
"Hey, right, I haven't met them yet! They were at your dad's wedding, right Videl?" Kaname piped up excitedly. Makekeru sniffed contemptuously from behind his book, letting them know he was listening but unwilling to participate in the discussion because of Kaname's insensitivity from earlier. Kaname rolled her eyes with exaggerated care, sharing her exasperation with them, and blew a raspberry toward the antisocial boy.
"Admit it; you're just as curious as I am, Keru!" Kaname tossed out for good measure.
"I," Makekeru lowered his book to pronounce with overstated care, "was not the one complaining ad infinitum about missing the wedding or the new people to meet." Kaname scowled.
"I wanted to go! There I was laid up with chemo, couldn't sit up in a wheelchair if my remission depended on it, and you sat around missing the biggest, most televised wedding in this lifetime!" Kaname's gestures were as expansive as ever, and equally superfluous. Her incredulous tone imparted the message quite sufficiently.
"Unlike you, I don't make it my mission in life to harass my roommate's visitors or barge in on their family's proceedings." Makekeru snapped back irately.
"Half the country was probably at that wedding!" Kaname shouted at her wits end.
"I wasn't invited." Makekeru stated bluntly. Gohan felt guilt well within as his conscience berated him internally.
"Oh, this is all my fault." Videl pointed out despondently before Gohan could offer his own apology. Three pairs of eyes focused on the raven-haired girl.
"How do you figure that?" Kaname queried.
"I hadn't actually thought to invite you two. I mean, that you would be welcome was a given…so I didn't think I needed to make a formal offer." Videl explained haltingly, a blush stained her cheeks in embarrassment. Gohan caught the surprised expression on Makekeru's face.
"See, your conceit is such a killjoy." Kaname asserted smugly.
"I prefer to call them manners." Makekeru snipped back.
So it was that Wednesday found Gohan and the gang in the company of Erasa and Sharpner battling it out on the scrabble board. They'd mixed two sets of tiles in order that all six of them could play. In the first round Makekeru seized the lead; arranging "Z-E-I-" to the right of Gohan's "N" in "INERTIA," creating "ZEIN." Gohan was a close third with, surprisingly, Sharpner holding second place. Both boys were eagerly anticipating the overthrow of the human dictionary which they'd come to call Makekeru after he placed his word, which no one could recognize.
The argument that ensued between Kaname and "Ruru" was settled when Sharpner pulled out his personal dictionary—brought from school in preparation to write an assigned essay—and proceeded to find the word. Makekeru was not only able to define the word, but also knew its exact placement in the dictionary, not by page but by the word before and after it, both of which he could also define. Sharpner verified Makekeru's assertions before tossing the book at the other boy in his total disgust.
"I bet you read that shit for fun, don't you?" Sharpner demanded of the smirking half-Chinese boy.
"…ull of surprises…know-it-all…" Kaname was muttering as she studied her tiles. The scowl on her face revealed her hand, and her improbable advancement above the previous four players. Videl had begun the game with "DELTA"; Sharpner followed with "YEW" utilizing the "E" in "DELTA". Erasa was dead last, but the bubbly blonde did not take offense and patiently waited her turn.
"How 'bout L, A and D." Kaname connected the first two letters with the "R" in "INERTIA" and tagged on the last to the right.
"Lard?" Sharpner queried, his expression clearly nonplussed.
"Yeah, you know, fat? That's ten points." Kaname tapped the pad Gohan was using to keep score. The demi-Saiyan used the pencil to swat the offending appendage away and glared for all he was worth. The chastisement was a mote endeavor because Kaname had already turned her attention to Erasa whose turn it was to go.
"Like, I don't have any words here!" Erasa wailed. "What am I supposed to do now?" Several in the group cringed, reminded unpleasantly of how nails sounded grating against a chalk board.
"You could trade your hand or a few letters." Gohan suggested, to which the blonde relinquished two tiles and selected new ones.
"Have any of you decided what to do after graduation?" Videl didn't look at the group, busy replenishing her hand and assembling a new word. Setting "V", above the "E" in "ZEIN" followed by "I", and connecting to the "L" in "LARD" produced "VEIL"; only after her turn did she lift her gaze to gauge the others reactions. Erasa was shaking her head vigorously side to side, Sharpner shrugged nervously, and Gohan seemed pensive.
"I won't graduate 'til next year. I still have time to avoid making any decisions." Kaname lazed backward on her elbows, beaming. Makekeru snorted derisively. "Procrastination at it's best!" Kaname agreed pumping her fist in the air.
"I wouldn't consider that something to brag about," Makekeru was countered with a tile thrown at his face, which he caught mid-air and returned to the box without comment, "I plan to take the entrance exams for Keio." Sharpner bobbled his tiles, sending an "O" and "A" clattering against the floor.
"Fuck me!" The blonde jock managed to gasp out, staring in horror at the younger boy.
"Aw, damn man, that's just gross. Now I have this really disgusting mental image, thanks a lot!" Kaname cried out, throwing a pillow at Sharpner who neatly batted it down. Gohan flinch slightly at the insinuation; only Videl took notice of the movement and set a comforting hand on his bent knee.
"It wasn't an invitation! Get your head out of the gutter," Sharpner snarled at Kaname before turning back to Makekeru, "Why would you even want to put yourself through that kind of hell? I mean, I'm not even sure I want to bother with vocational, let alone a four year stint." Sharpner bent to retrieve his lost pieces; he set both below the "T" in "DELTA," and with the addition of "D" from his tile rack, he created "TOAD." Makekeru remained contemplatively silent as Gohan took his turn setting out "C-A-N-D" above "DELTA" and connecting with the "Y" in "YEW."
"That's a word and an acronym, hmm." Videl mused thoughtfully.
"Twenty-four points." Gohan supplied smugly as he gained the lead.
"Well?" Sharpner persisted, tempted to shake the boy who was now paying more attention to the game then him. Makekeru held up a warding hand as he concentrated on the board.
"Admit it; you don't have the letters to pull it off." Gohan smirked. Makekeru frowned as Sharpner fumed and the three girls giggled and tossed grins at each other as they observed each boy's antics.
"Che." Makekeru snorted. Gohan felt a certain relish recording Makekeru's negligible score of ten points from the letters "S-T-A-I" linked to the "D" in "TOAD". With the "S" being a blank tile, the arrogant Asian garnered nothing of value.
"Makie" Sharpner called in a sing-song voice, resorting to childish taunting in hopes of receiving an answer. Kaname laughed uproariously when her antisocial friend leveled his death glare, mach 5 at the offensive blonde.
"It's what's expected of me." The blunt, coldly related fact caused the smile to slip from Kaname's lips and the others to fall silent. Sharpner shifted uncomfortably in his spot, fully aware he'd put a damper on the moment with his doggedness.
"Y-You don't want to go to Keio?" Makekeru stared steadily at Gohan until the older teen dropped his gaze. While Gohan had grown used to Makekeru's strange mood swings and severe attitude, his unnervingly sharp eyes still caused him no small amount of unease.
"Heh, heh, well, I made it to third place," Kaname laughed nervously, "That's eighteen points Maru."
Gohan didn't even bat an eye at Kaname's shortened version of Sesshomaru—she'd taken great pleasure in mangling it since Videl pointed out Erasa and Sharpner's ignorance concerning his nick name—he was still brooding on Makekeru's confession.
"Hey Sesshy, come on! Be fair!" Kaname tugged insistently on the sleeve of his writing hand. Gohan stared uncomprehendingly at the board which now displayed another string of letters flowing downward. "T-E-N-E-T" it read starting at the "T" in "STAID".
"Don't worry about it." The soft whisper brought Gohan's gaze to bear once again on Makekeru who was now looking down at his lap. "It really isn't such an imposition," a deep huff of breath, "And I know they mean well, that it's their way of showing that they care. They just want me to be successful." Makekeru brought his eyes up from his lap. Sharpner still seemed uncomfortable, Kaname was smiling gently with understanding, Erasa was respectfully quite, Gohan felt a sense of relief, and Videl, Videl was watching Gohan. While the raven-haired teen felt compassion for the conflicted youth before them, her concern was intrinsically tied to Gohan. She would always put his feelings before those of others; and she worried how this discussion of expectations and parents might be affecting the fragile psyche of one as traumatized as he.
"Whose turn is it?"
The question broke whatever tension lingered over them. Gohan shook himself from remnant memories and dutifully took down Kaname's score, cracking a joke about how now that she'd reached the pinnacle of her abilities there was only the inevitable fall to follow. Kaname shrieked her outrage and pounced with pillow in hand to deal out justice. Sharpner became the victim of an ill executed assault and retaliated by tackling Kaname to the floor and tickling her until she nearly wet herself. Erasa stood on the side giggling incessantly and Makekeru offered to help Sharpner by pinning Kaname's hands above her head. Gohan's face flushed a deep red with his laughter. And all the while Videl watched from the sidelines, noting the glint of tears in ebony eyes that were not a result of mirth.
"So then my dad turns around and says, it's a good thing we didn't have more kids 'cause then you'd be blaming me for them too." the tears that had been building up in her eyes slipped down her cheeks and she sniffled a bit. Daani reached out a hand to squeeze her shoulder and the poised Ryoko repositioned her chair in order to put a comforting arm around the upset girl.
"My mom started yelling and screaming, and then my," a soft sob escaped Yuuko's mouth and more tears streaked down her face, "my dad hollered that, that he was starting to regret ever agreeing to have kids at all." Yuuko broke down and raised her hands to shield her face from all the eyes gazing upon her. Straight black hair, trimmed to below the shoulder blades fell forward to better obscure her face and her misery-filled eyes. Immediately Kaname rushed over to give the fraught girl a much needed hug and a few reassuring words.
Gohan felt ill at ease and really wished he could be exempted from these meetings. Though Dr. Kalinin had yet to pressure him to speak about anything serious Gohan knew the time was drawing near after two weeks of sessions, and he dreaded it with a passion. How could he possibly be open about even half the things he'd been through with these...these children? Gohan could think of no other term because Yuuko's problem, along with the others he'd heard so far, were problems concerning rejection from their parents, their parent's marriage problems, and what will happen if or when they die. Gohan wondered if it was truly wise, putting him in group therapy to dish out his nightmares to other impressionable minds.
"Come now Yuuko; do you really think your father meant what he said?" Dr. Kalinin questioned calmly. Kaname gave the girl one last pat on the knee before returning to her seat. Yuuko was still muffling her quite sobs with her hands but her eyes lifted to meet Dr. Kalinin's. After a few seconds she nodded ever so slightly in the affirmative and re-covered her whole face to hide the tears. "What makes you believe he wasn't just reacting out of anger for the situation?"
"My dad ne'er w-wanted any kids. I knew it e'en 'fore...I had cancer; my mom s-said it was th'reason why he ne'er spent m-much time wi' me and why...he was a'ways so impatient when I got too noisy or annoying." Yuuko revealed in a quavering voice that choked up several times and was muffled behind her hands. Dr. Kalinin frowned slightly but almost immediately offered a heartwarming smile to the young fifteen year old.
"Have you spoken directly to your father about any of this?"
"N-No...he would probably just deny it anyway." Yuuko's shoulders slumped in defeat.
"I'm not sure about your pops Yuuko, and I'm not sure what to say about the problems between him and your mom; but I do hope you realize that we care about you a great deal." Sakuma, an older boy who Gohan did not particularly feel at ease around, spoke out before Dr. Kalinin could say anything. Heads all around the room nodded to add support to the comment and Dr. Kalinin looked pleased. Yuuko lowered her hands to look around the group and offered a tremulous smile of gratitude.
"Thank you, that means a lot to me." she murmured softly. Dr. Kalinin walked over to give her a hug and Gohan saw that the doctor whispered something in Yuuko's ear to which the girl nodded and a few stray tears leaked from her eyes.
"I think we should move on. Since you seem eager to talk, perhaps you'd like a turn, Mr. Hashimoto. Is that all right with you?" Dr. Kalinin turned everyone's attention to the eighteen-year-old boy with stylishly messy, dark-brown hair and deep blue-velvet eyes. Sakuma was one of the few patients who refused to wear the hospital garb, the other being seventeen-year-old, fashion sensitive Harada Ayame. Sakuma wore an airy, ruffled white top that exposed a great deal of his neckline and the smooth expanse of his stomach. Skin tight jeans hugged his hips aided by a fancy silver studded belt; a choker of similar design adorned Sakuma's throat. Expensive Italian leather shoes rounded out the ensemble. Gohan's comfort level dropped a few more notches when the boy smiled lasciviously at Dr. Kalinin.
"Of course I don't mind Doctor. I believe we left off our last one-on-one session with a discussion concerning my escapist tendencies. You agreed with my argument that spending my time having sex with my boyfriend is much safer than going off to drink or shooting up with drugs." Gohan grimaced while most of the other students blushed brightly or giggled to Sakuma's utter delight. The boy tossed a wink at Dr. Kalinin, to her apparent chagrin.
Uneasy, Gohan slunk lower in his chair only consequently catching sight of another unsmiling boy across from him. The older boy looked rather severe with golden tipped, tastefully disheveled, light-brown hair hanging slightly in his face which was framed by rimless golden eared glasses. It wasn't so much the mystique of the hair or the harsh glint of the light off the glasses that conveyed severity but rather the cold, emotionless golden-brown eyes staring straight back into his. Gohan quickly averted his gaze to the floor and turned his attention back to what Dr. Kalinin was saying in reply to Sakuma.
"...ed enough about your sexual proclivities, I'm more concerned with why you feel a need for intimate physical contact every chance you have. Do you suppose this is a result of your father's mistreatment and lack of emotional regard? Or perhaps you search out these conquests to spite his homophobic aggression?" Gohan felt the atmosphere plummet to sub-zero temperatures, a reflection of Hashimoto Sakuma's warm blue eyes turning into chips of frozen ice. The smile was no longer in evidence on his face and several of the other patients shifted agitatedly in their seats. Gohan thought the whole line of questioning was far too blunt. The things she implied had Gohan's hands gripping the rim of his seat with white-knuckled fists.
"I don't have 'conquests,'" the quotations were clearly heard in the tone of Sakuma's voice, "I never cheated on my lover. My father can go fuck himself as far as I'm concerned and I'd appreciate a divergence from this line of questioning, Doctor." Sakuma's lips twisted in a hateful little sneer when he acknowledged the title. Gohan felt his heart throbbing painfully against his ribs and breathed a little faster. Dr. Kalinin frowned at Sakuma but acquiesced with a not-so-apologetic nod. Gohan saw her eyes flicker in his direction and knew without a doubt that it was his presence and reaction that convinced her not to pursue the subject. It was with a little surprise that Gohan also noticed the doctor's gaze land briefly on the silent boy across from him. Perhaps the good doctor Jomei wasn't so remiss in assigning him to this group. Then Dr. Kalinin was speaking again and Gohan's attention dutifully diverged from his own thoughts.
"Gohan, I know you haven't exactly been comfortable with all this, having never been in therapy before now. For this reason I haven't pushed you very much to talk; I want you to feel comfortable with us. However, this is group therapy, and what makes the others, and hopefully you, more comfortable is to know what the others have gone through, and how it relates to yourself. You've had ample time to hear some of the problems our group suffers from, and I am sure they are eager to aid you in your own. I'd like for you to share something with the group, what scares you, what you're feeling right now, how you view your future, anything that might be bothering you that you might need help with?" Dr. Kalinin spoke calmly, offering Gohan a parameter of sorts without forcing the issue as she'd tried to do with Sakuma moments before. Gohan still hated her for it. Six sessions and he managed to fall under the radar, merely a spectator among the anguished sharing of the others. Now in the seventh it seemed that his luck had run out.
Gohan's eyes passed over the group evenly split between males and females discounting himself. All eyes were focused on him for what was only the second time since his first, less than stellar, session. Sweat broke out on his brow.
"I'm scared…of dying." Gohan finished lamely; anything else was just too raw and untouchable, especially among outsiders. Several of the others nodded with understanding, offering smiles of encouragement, but when Gohan chanced a glance at Dr. Kalinin she looked less than impressed. Gohan could almost venture to say she looked disappointed with him. A slight adjustment of her notes helped her to focus on what he had offered.
"Can you explain why?" she queried, her tone made a turn for the professional. Gohan winced. That was the same tone she'd used with Sakuma.
"There's," Gohan stared at his lap, uncomfortable with seeing those surrounding him, "Well, there's something to lose."
"What might that be? I am assuming you aren't speaking of the obvious, which is your own life." Dr. Kalinin subtly pushed. Gohan resented the dig; he'd answered her damn question, now she should leave him alone.
"Videl." Her name was spat churlishly; Gohan didn't want to share her.
"Who is she? Is she another patient?" Akai Ryoma, the mousy little boy who was always too curious for his own good, asked the question eagerly.
"She's Gohan's girlfriend. We learned of her during his first session, don't you remember?" Ayame calmly recapped for the younger boy. Ryoma smiled ruefully and shrugged.
"Are you telling me you wouldn't want to die because you'd lose your girlfriend?" Daani demanded abrasively, finding Gohan's priorities skewed.
"What's wrong with that? I wouldn't want to lose Inoue, and I care more for him than myself!" Sakuma rejoined harshly in Gohan's defense. Daani's expression twisted in dislike, and Gohan had the distinct impression Daani was disgusted by the other boy's sexuality.
"Hey, come on guys, don't start a fight! Dr. Kalinin says we're supposed to respect one another and what we say to her questions. Daani, you aren't helping Gohan if you belittle his answer." Kimi-chan, one of the youngest girls tried to mediate.
"Oh, shut up! Why are you always butting in? I just asked a simple question. I think it's stupid that someone wouldn't want to die just because he'd lose," Daani hesitated only a moment, looking between Gohan and Sakuma, debating who to insult, "his little fuck buddy." Daani finished viciously, clearly directing his attack at Sakuma.
"Mr. Motou!" Dr. Kalinin called sharply. However, Sakuma clearly thought a harsh scolding was not punishment enough, for in the next moment he'd flung himself at the other boy. With flailing limbs and vulgar profanities escaping his lips, Sakuma's intention was unmistakable; he aimed to beat Daani senseless.
"…ther fucker…ck do you think you are!" Sakuma screamed. He landed a sharp blow to Daani's face before Dr. Kalinin and, surprisingly, the severely unemotional boy pulled him off.
"That's quite enough!" Dr. Kalinin reprimanded in a voice that oozed authority. Daani dabbed at his bleeding nose, watching Sakuma with a jaundiced eye of scorn. Sakuma jerked his arm free from stoic-boy's hold, not the least bit repentant.
"I'm out of here." Sakuma announced, turning his back and stalking from the room.
"Where's Gohan?" Dr. Kalinin demanded, belatedly realizing the bald teen was no longer present in the room.
Gohan sat curled within the frame of a window along one of the long passageways of the hospital. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a moment all to himself, a moment to think, a moment to reflect. God, he really hated being alone. But, he couldn't go back; he couldn't face the raw violence that filled Sakuma's feral eyes. That one second, when Sakuma's fist was raised above Daani's head, for a single instant Gohan had thought the blow was meant for him, a swamp of flashback images followed the innate flinching reaction. All Gohan could think to do was escape. Amid the upheaval he'd managed to duck out of the room all together. He vaguely hoped that the situation had been resolved. Sakuma hadn't deserved such hateful regard, but Gohan couldn't abide by his reaction either. He'd been on the receiving end of a beating too often to find violence any kind of answer. Gohan pulled his knees in closer to his chest, it was cold comfort.
"There you are." the calm, toneless voice startled Gohan enough that he nearly fell from his perch.
"Who…?" Gohan couldn't bring himself to finish the question, suddenly nervous in the presence of another male without any of his "safe" people in attendance. One slim eyebrow rose above convex lenses, golden-brown eyes gazed without discernable emotion. Gohan still caught the distinct impression he was a source of amusement.
"I don't believe we've been introduced. My name is Tezuka." Gohan was relieved when Tezuka made no motion toward him whether to shake hands or bow. In actuality, the taller boy's arms were crossed tightly about his torso, giving Gohan the sense he wished to be touched even less than himself.
"Gohan-er-Sesshomaru…whichever is fine." Gohan shrugged his shoulders, realizing only then that he'd unconsciously mimicked the other boy's close knit posture. Tezuka nodded by way of acknowledgement before motioning back down the hall in the direction he'd come.
"You should return; some doctors are looking for you."
"Therapy is over for me right now." Gohan clenched his jaw stubbornly as he stared out the window. That meddlesome woman wasn't getting anything else from him today.
"Actually, some doctors came by the room after you left…Something to do with your treatment."
Gohan regarded the man before him with no discernable change of expression. Without much focus he could feel the hand clutching his almost with enough pressure to break the small bones within, the bruises would be livid given time. One small flicker of his eyes confirmed the tears on her face, not much of a surprise. Videl always endorsed being prepared for the worst but felt the effects of disappointment twice as much upon receiving unpleasant news. For once Kaname looked properly uncomfortable in regards to his health, Gohan couldn't even muster the energy to feel vindicated. Makekeru was doing all in his power to become insignificant. Gohan wondered almost perversely if the other boy's actions stemmed from concern for his privacy or a selfish desire not to acknowledge death's inevitable grasp.
"Gohan, there's still time. Your name is on the list" Dr. Jomei tried to amend the unaccommodating news in some way. As if there was any way to make dying sound less immediate. The good doctor himself told Videl the lists were less than useful in Gohan's case. The words that followed didn't even register as Gohan's mind preoccupied itself with other thoughts. Times like these he was grateful to have the foresight to exclude the others.
After receiving the news that Goten's test results were in, he'd asked that the others be told elsewhere. Even now he could picture Bulma having a full blown breakdown. If Gohan followed that train of thought it would lead him around the twisting tracks of the imaginary scene. Vegeta was easy to picture in a corner, body practically screaming avoidance of an issue deemed not his problem. The younger boys would likely be disappointed their bid for another brother was preemptively snuffed. Krillin would be distraught but also resigned to the outcome. Gohan hadn't returned too long ago that attachment firmly set in; and the once bald man already dealt with enough loses for Gohan's death to be anything more than routine. Yamcha was a glaring empty pocket in Gohan's projected scene but the ill boy could hardly find the emotion to feel anything about it. Then there would me Mirai Trunks, the blast from the past would most definitely be riling at Gohan not to give up, to retain hope for some potential match among the throngs of the perfectly-human variety. Piccolo was unlikely to hear the news until one of the others informed him. Gohan couldn't decide if he should laugh or scream out against an unjust world. But hey, the world never promised to be fair. The simple fact of the matter was he couldn't shed a single tear if he tried.
Beside him Videl was sobbing hysterically as she gripped him painfully. Gohan had a keen desire to just shove her noisy, bone-crushing presence away from him but the logical part of his brain informed him that would be most irregular, and it would engender a lot of questions. Questions Gohan had no desire to answer. His mind was strangely blank and he couldn't feel, well, anything; except maybe a twinge of irritation. With a detached disgust, Gohan noted that Videl's tears and mucus were being transferred to his scratchy night shirt via the girl's buried face. Dr. Jomei was still talking, about what Gohan couldn't begin to fathom, or even want to try. What was there left to speak of anyway? Gohan honestly felt he could do with a bit of sleep. Yes, he was about due for a nap; in fact, that had been his plan before being side-tracked by this imparting of death. Gohan didn't think twice about rolling over, drawing up his blankets and closing his eyes on the entire world, it would be there when he woke, if he ever did so again. He was silent because he had nothing to say; it was as simple as that.
Warning: This chapter contains dream/memory sequences.
Chapter 35: And So It Goes
In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along
Within the room, on the quilt-spread bed laid the two teenagers, heads together. Scattered before them from a cloth-bound book were multitudes of colorful snapshots. Prominent in most was a family of three; the father, awkward though he may have been, had a goofy smile, quite endearing; the mother, a woman of exotic beauty possessed wonderful laughing eyes; and the daughter was toddling and cute as a button besides. Gohan's hand hovered over a few, laughing at the antics of a clumsy father, smiling sweetly at the tender moments shared between husband and wife, immortalized forever on something tangible.
Reams of photos contained the progression of a tuft-headed baby girl, to a spitfire young woman. Videl spent a fair share of her time trying to snatch up all the embarrassing captures, such as the one of her in the bathtub at the age of three. Gohan managed to snag each and every picture she attempted to hide, sharing the laughter and contentment such images brought to the viewer. But it was when they brought tears that Gohan found himself feeling the most gratitude. These were Videl's memories; these scraps of paper were all that remained of her mother.
"Thank you, Videl." Gohan whispered softly into her hair as he held her to him. Her soundless tears soaked into his shirt as she sought comfort in his embrace. Gohan was more than willing to offer what small solace he could in these rare moments Videl chose to open her past to him. Videl hardly spoke of her mother at all, but Gohan fully believed sharing bits of her memory would help to heal the rift in Videl's heart created by the loss of her mother. Perhaps one day Gohan would find the courage to reciprocate. Besides that one evening Gohan revealed his name, he hadn't discussed his parents, not even the good times they'd shared.
I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self-defense
"Please, Gohan, answer me!" Videl pleaded ever so quietly into his ear.
Gohan laid sideways on the bed, head cushioned on cotton pillows. Glazed eyes, like chips of coal, stared at the wall without awareness. At his back lay Videl, embraced around him. Gently she stroked his scalp, reassuring; in hopes he would hear her through the touch. But his eyes would not focus, nor even blink as she imparted her silent emotions, too full for words. Soft lips brushed along his brow, gentle murmurs, but a whisper in the gesture. And still no change was wrought. He lay unresponsive even now, and could not help but hide away. The only words he knew to say would bring little more than sorrow and pain. And yet she stayed at his side, and loved him still.
"Videl?" a voice called softly from the doorway. Videl glanced up and saw Bulma through the gloom, backlit by the open door. "Any change?" A shallow shake of the head was, sadly, the only response she could give. Bulma sighed, eyed the hospital floor as thoughts, perhaps memories, shuffled through her mind. Her hands wrung together nervously but without her awareness. Videl could not fathom the depth of this woman's concern, this woman who knew a happier Gohan once upon a time.
"You should probably get some rest. You've been by his side since the…since hearing the news." Bulma's voice nearly cracked on the last. Videl stared blankly at the blue-haired woman.
"Would you?" Videl queried, her voice virtually inaudible, but Bulma managed to distinguish the words.
"Stay with him?"
"No," Videl listed her head sideways to negate the assumption, "Would you leave if he were your husband…one of your sons?" Videl looked down, once again, at Gohan's crown as one hand gently stroked the smooth skin. The silence stretched, but Videl's attention did not sway. When the door closed gently behind the older woman it was answer enough.
The psychiatrist called it catatonia, the doctors argued in favor of shock. Kaname, in a fit of anger, dubbed it cowardice. But Videl knew it for what it was…heartbreak. After all the words were defined and neatly scribed onto his chart, the result was the same. Gohan lay vacantly on his bed, his body breathing but hardly alive. Videl kept vigil over this shell of flesh, waiting for the moment his soul would resurface. And she loved him still.
And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes (x2)
And so will you soon I suppose
"Do you ever think that things might have been different if you'd never been born?" Being ensconced in a darkened room made posing the question far less daunting and offered Videl the chance to pretend she hadn't heard. The bed beneath him shifted and a body rose above his, two forearms to either side of his head. He glanced up to lock gazes with luminous blue, a glint barely perceived through the unbounded darkness.
"I suppose I do." a quiet admittance, without rancor for the query.
"I dream sometimes," Gohan's eyes looked off into the black void of nothingness, "I can see them happy and alive." The suspended figure above him lowered until he could feel the weight of her body and the arms embracing him tightly. It was reassuring in a purely physical sense, anchoring him in the here and now. Gohan could even discern the faint scent of her shampoo from her evening shower.
"Sometimes I picture my parents together without me," a bare whisper against his collar, bringing his attention back to her voice, "And then I remember how much my mother cherished having a child. If I wasn't there, I know she'd regret not having me. And what if she still had cancer? Who would my dad have to take care of him, if not me?"
Silence fell upon the two entwined on the bed. One held the other in a tight embrace, attempting to impart a tangible appreciation for the other's existence. For his part, Gohan struggled with the warring emotions of longing and guilt. He could not, in good conscience, deem himself worthy of his father's sacrifice. In the same instant, he could not say with definitive certainty that his nonexistence would have wrought a positive outcome to his parent's lives. All he could rely on was the need expressed by Videl for his companionship. If the reason for his existence rode solely on Videl's desire for him in her life, he could live with that. As long as she…
"Please don't ever leave me."
"No, not ever." A solemn promise sealed with a snug embrace.
But if my silence
Made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break
"You promised," her voice was soft, "You gave your word you'd never pull away again." A small bit of resentment bled into the last statement, nearly an accusation. She was finding it more and more difficult not to lash out at the source of her frustrations. Despite her harsh words though, Videl's arms loosely encircled his torso. She fairly curled about his head, laying butterfly kisses and gentle strokes to the unblemished skin. However, harsh words or gentle touch, if he noticed either he showed not outward sign.
For four days Gohan lingered in this impassive state. Videl grew more agitated and prone to fits of temper around everyone else. Bulma stopped dropping in after having one too many scathing comments snarled her way. Mirai Trunks similarly made like a ghost and vanished. She suspected Krillin simply couldn't stand to see his best friend's son suffer so. As for her own family, her father finally resigned himself to her inevitable refusal to return home.
The only one who seemed immune to her hostile disposition was Vegeta, and that was more to do with his own temperament being something to rival. Nonetheless, it never failed to short circuit her thought process when the stoic man dropped in for a visit. Videl couldn't understand his presence nor fathom the motive behind it. Even now the man was standing vigil in what was quickly becoming "His Corner." He had yet to speak, and often Videl could nearly forget he was there all together.
So it was with an alarmed gasp that she greeted Vegeta's rough voice when it broke the silence.
"Don't waste your affections where they are not acknowledged." Recovering from her initial shock, Videl matched the glare that pierced through the pervading gloom. Flashing onyx encountered glinting quartz. A silent battle of wills ensued in which Videl felt a keening desperation to prevail or possibly lose Gohan forever.
"Your sympathy does little for he who lacks resolve." The truth—and what a painful, ripping truth—forced her gaze to fall in despair. She could not fight all fronts without the will of her heart, a heart she entrusted to another. It too was locked beneath the vacant eyes of the one she loved.
"What more can I do?" A bleak query, directed to one without compassion, could garner no hope.
"Spare yourself." The heartache, the inevitable painful loss, the memories to follow, all remained unspoken. The words were related coldly, but they unnervingly took into account her wellbeing. Without a will one was already lost. There was only the one left to save, an aberrant form of triage. Videl could feel the tender tightening in her breast, the emotion preceding an immense loss. She could only recall experiencing such bereavement once before.
"Will you stay?" She could hardly voice the words beyond her constricting throat. Her gaze remained downcast, though the other continued to be a stalwart presence whose very aura was like a malevolent undercurrent. Astringent silence settled like a blanket of condemnation. Videl could feel Gohan sifting from her grasp as a handful of sand. The more rapidly she grappled for additional grains the more quickly those she held escaped.
"He determined his own fate." Videl's head bowed under the uncompromising honesty. Her attention was inexorably drawn to the shuttered façade, not so much peaceful as empty, the face of the forsaken. Bending close, until her hair curtained them away from abrasive eyes, Videl pressed her lips to his, a final farewell. Dry, parched lips reciprocated nothing leaving her feeling as if abandoned.
Carefully Videl extricated herself from the bed. She did not pay any mind to the remaining other. She was actively cleaving out her own heart as she created the distance between herself and her love. Reaching the door was equivalent to approaching hell on earth. Once she stepped through there would be no turning back. Gohan made his decision, now she would have to make hers. One hand fell to the handle, trembled visibly, and then gripped with such force it was painful. A slow turn and sounds once muffled became much clearer. A shaky breath was inhaled in preparation.
"Don't," She froze over the threshold, "Please don't leave me alone."
And this is why my eyes are close
It's just as well for all I've seen
And so it goes (x2)
That you're the only one who knows
"Shhh, it's all right. You're safe." He sat hunched over his up-drawn knees panting as the fear still held him in its ever tightening grip. Sweat was a slick presence on his skin and dampness in his sheets. It took a few moments before his high-jacked brain managed to sort the overflow of information. Immediately he noticed the hand brushing gently at his shoulder. Next he acknowledged the soothing voice as the one belonging to Videl. These two factors allowed Gohan to deduce the turn of events. He'd had a nightmare, probably cried out in his sleep, and Videl came to chase it away.
"Would you like some water?" Videl queried almost hesitantly, unsure if she should breach the silence punctuated only by the harsh breathing of the bed's sole occupant. Gohan managed a bobbing nod before he collapsed bonelessly backward. Videl shifted then stood to make her way to the conjoining bathroom.
When Videl returned to Gohan with the requested glass of water, she saw him with his eyes clenched shut; the fingers of his left hand were rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"Bad one?" Videl sat herself in the chair beside the bed, passing over the glass of water along with two aspirin. Gohan palmed the pills, threw them back with a splash of water, cleared his throat, and voiced a gruff affirmative. His eyes were still closed.
"Need to talk about it?" Videl settled one hand on a blanket covered knee in support. She could only imagine the types of nightmares Gohan experienced. With memories like his, life itself had to have been one conscious terror.
"I don't want to scare you." Gohan murmured; his breathing was coming to a semblance of normal.
"I'd like to think I can take it."
"Trust me; you wouldn't want to hear about those sorts of things." Gohan shuddered. Videl could see that his hands maintained the unsteady movement, they were trembling. Gently she took his hands into hers; rubbing over the knuckles with her thumbs, attempting to calm his unease.
"You don't have to tell me. I think I can guess." Videl brought his hands to her lips to brush tender kisses over the bony skin. Then she cupped his face in one palm, guiding him to look into her eyes. "You don't have to explain, just as long as you remember not to blame yourself."
"It's hard not to." Gohan confessed softly.
"I know; that's why I'm here, to remind you every time you forget."
So I would chose to be with you
That's if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break
And so it goes (x2)
And you're the only one who knows
Billy Joel-And So it Goes
"No," Videl managed in an unsteady voice, "Not ever." Then she was abandoning the gaping doorway to rush to his side. Enveloping him in her arms was instinct but the answering clutch from one long indifferent brought an unadulterated wave of relief. Tears came, as she knew they would, but were brushed delicately away. His expression was a rictus of pain and apology all at once. The overwhelming sense of despair, the terrible guilt over his actions, and the desperate search for forgiveness were as readable as an open book.
"I'm sorry!" he croaked from deep within his chest. His eyes were painfully dry but bright with distraught emotion. Videl wanted nothing more at that moment than to systematically erase every horrible memory within his head. They scarred him so completely that he shouldered the blame for things even he was incapable of controlling.
It is said that a painful account gets easier with each retelling. After the first apology passed Gohan's lips Videl was suddenly inundated with hitching supplications for absolution. Over and over he whispered his admission of failure and she tried to console him with soothing reassurances and tactile comfort. Gohan was not quick to settle though. The bald teen held Videl with a feverish sort of desperation. They were both painfully aware they'd almost lost one another.
"I will never," said with formidable conviction, "leave as long as you have a place for me here." Videl laid her palm against Gohan's chest roughly where his heart would be located. Gohan settled his hand over hers and pulled her in with the other. This time, when their lips met they were bruising in their intensity.
"We'll get through this. Somehow we'll find a way." Gohan murmured into the infinitesimal separation brought on by the necessity of breathing.
"Donor list…still time." Videl agreed hastily before crushing her mouth to his a second time. The harsh click of teeth was beautifully painful. Gohan could even taste a hint of blood as one of his incisors broke the skin of his bottom lip. The grips they were exerting on each other would leave livid bruises as well but neither could find it within themselves to care. Yes, Gohan was alive. Nothing else mattered at the moment. When Vegeta departed from the private room he was not even spared a parting thought.
So it was not until the following morning—after a rare night of restful sleep for both teens—that Gohan noticed an innocuous piece of folded paper resting on his bedside table. Curious about what it contained, for only Vegeta could have left it, Gohan took it in hand and perused its contents. After the first couple lines he felt his stomach twist into knots. By midway he was torn between screaming and babbling incoherently. By the end he could feel tears coursing down his cheeks. As the salty drops migrated south, Videl twitched awake due to an odd wetness.
"Gohan!" Videl cupped his face, her own full of worry. "What's wrong?"
Wordlessly, the bald teen passed over the paper he'd been reading. Videl scanned the heading, some private company or other, and skimmed through the opening only to stutter to a halt. Her gaze inexorably rose back to the beginning then followed the script at a much slower pace. Little by little her eyes became enlarged as they progressed through the correspondence and processed the meaning behind the words.
"Trunks?" she finally whispered in disbelief.
"It says on there he was tested nearly a week after Goten." Gohan whispered, pointing out the relevant date among the official jargon. He settled his hands around her waist as he reread the characters over her shoulder.
"This…This is…" Videl could not find the words to express what such a small, seemingly insignificant scrap of processed tree signified.
"This is our future." Gohan murmured, and for once he could actually see one on the horizon.
Here was his deliverance…
Author's Ending Remarks:
That's it for part one, which would have been out a few days ago except I had to reformat AGAIN! (Moans piteously and gleefully rips apart the corrupted floppy that used to store her fic.) I had to save from FFnet and redo all that formatting I'd done prior to writing the last two chapters! I'm only lucky that I saved the newest chapters to my comp, before the floppy became corrupted!
Part II will not start for a while. However, for those of you looking forward to it, I can tell you now the title will be "Nightmare's End" so you can flag it when you see it. If you haven't reviewed yet, I'd appreciate at least one, here at the end please! Even if you read this through and it's been up a long long while, please review at least once! I would really appreciate some lasting remarks and criticisms on the fic as a whole!
As for my own thoughts…I think it turned out pretty good. I still have loose ends (grumble:nevergottothedamnsenzubeans:grumble) but those should and will be tied up in the next half if they were not addressed in this one. I think my description fell off in the last chapter but I was trying to deal with abstracts like feelings and emptiness so it came away a little bare? The last chapter is also fairly short, but it wrote itself that way. Please let me know if it was completely anticlimactic or whatever!
Originally I was going to have Goten as a match but then I changed my mind and was left wondering who to match him with. I was considering Vegeta all the way up to and including writing the last chapter but changed my mind at the end. There was supposed to be this big scene and Vegeta would fall into this sort of giving role, but I realized it might mean more for him to have allowed his own flesh and blood son to be tested and match Gohan. I also thought Vegeta would be the kind of guy to unobtrusively inform Gohan of the match after testing one last time if he wanted to live.
Overall, I think I wrote Videl and Gohan a bit too emotional and ready to cry. Rereading this as I was reformatting called to my attention the many chapters where Videl or Gohan or both, or someone else! (gah!) are crying. Of course, if I was diagnosed with Leukemia I think there would be plenty of tears all around, but (shrugs) meh, whatever.
The next fic probably won't have nearly as much crying, though there will be plenty of emotional upheavals as Gohan moves in with the Briefs and confronts some of his less physical demons. There will still be interaction with Kaname, Makekeru, and the therapy group; my original characters will be playing pivotal roles in Gohan's recovery. However, we will also deal with issues among the traditional caste. I think we are all agreed that Gohan has plenty of issues all around, ne?
Thank you for reading, and see you all next time,
SPECIAL THANX TO KEY REVIEWERS: You were there from the start or came along to kick me into gear with your fantastic reviews. Yours were the most constructive and helped me to become a better writer. I thank you all from the very bottom of my heart and hope you will join me in the sequel.
CHANEY, FIREBIRD9900, LADY ANGEL FIREN, LADY JOPAM (SHOCKANGEL/ANGELSHOCK), and SAH-RAE-HYJO
FINAL THANX TO EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER REVIEWED!
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