AN: I'll explain this story in the author's notes at the end of the fic. Let's just say it's very depressing. I don't own DB/Z/GT. Oh, and I don't own the poem "In Remembrance" either. Anonymous does.
The little house in the mountains was quiet. Very quiet.
Too quiet, in Gohan's humble opinion. He wished that there was more sound.
He had several homework assignments that he was supposed to be doing. One was in front of him, and the others were stacked neatly on the corner of his desk, just waiting to be graced with his attention. They had been waiting there for quite a long time already; he had been staring at the exact same page of his calculus textbook for nearly half an hour, and he could not have said what was written on that page if his life had depended on it.
Life had to move on. At least, that was what everyone had been telling him for the past two months. He'd missed a huge amount of school, and when he had finally gotten himself together enough to go back, there had been a veritable mountain of homework waiting for him, and the inevitable game of catch up that always followed a long absence from classes. It had taken quite a lot of time, energy, and attention to finish all that make-up work. He had made certain that it took plenty of time, even though most of it was over material that he had covered as a young child under his mother's tutelage. But Gohan had thrown himself headfirst into it, working like a fiend in an attempt to keep himself distracted. Sometimes it worked quite well. Other times, like now, his mind just didn't want to be distracted.
No one knew, outside of the old group. When he'd gone back to school, naturally everyone had wanted to know where he had been for so long. He had replied almost automatically that there had been a death. Not many people pressed him for any information beyond that; he had done an excellent job of putting on a classic 'I don't want to talk about it' face. The few that had asked for any additional news were politely ignored. Only Videl knew the whole truth, and she was as heartbroken about it as he was.
Finally, Gohan did something he really should have done nearly twenty minutes earlier. He folded his worksheet, stuck it inside the accursed calculus book, and slammed the book shut. It made a very satisfying sound. At last, he had freed himself from that particular agony.
Truth be told, he was going from one torture straight into another. Now his mind had a completely free rein to wander where it would.
He leaned back in his chair, rocking it back onto its hind legs. Then he let his head lull backwards so he could stare at the ceiling. It wasn't a very exciting ceiling, and he quickly felt the need to do something. Fly, spar, read, clean—anything!
But before he could decide what form of distraction he would attempt to indulge in, his sensitive Saiyan ears picked up a sound from outside his partially-opened bedroom door: the sound of laughter. It was a soft laugh, but he barely managed to catch it. And then it happened.
The door slammed the rest of the way open, and someone ran past him; whoever it was must have hit the leg of his chair on his way past. Since he was rocked back, it managed to take the seat right out from under him. Gohan landed hard on his back; the chair clattered to the floor beside him.
This wasn't the first time that something like that had happened. And in the past, it had always been a deliberate action; the culprit had always been the same. Without even thinking, he sat up, bracing his weight on his arms, and, in a voice laden with good-natured exasperation, sighed, "Goten, knock it off."
It was a full minute later when comprehension dawned. He had picked himself up off the floor, righted his desk chair, and reseated himself before he realized what had just happened and what he'd said.
Slowly, he let his head drop down until his forehead was resting on the desk. How could he have been that incredibly stupid?
Hot, bitter tears stung his eyes and threatened to fall, as they had been doing frequently over these past few weeks. But Gohan refused to allow them that liberty.
He had to have imagined hearing the footsteps rush past him. He'd imagined feeling the familiar jerk catching the leg of his chair in the instant before he was sent tumbling to the ground. And he had definitely imagined catching a glimmer of that familiar giggle. He had to have imagined it.
How could he possibly have forgotten?
Goten was gone.
The rain fell freely, and Gohan didn't mind a bit. The gray, dreary weather matched his mood perfectly. It was as though the world was crying, and that suited him just fine.
He stared at the window, watching the rain beat itself against the glass, but not really seeing it at all. Just like the rest of the world, it was all kind of…there. This was how he'd been living, after all. Mostly going through the movements of being awake and being alive. He got up, he ate, he did chores, he studied, he did everything he had always done. But he really didn't register doing any of it.
Occasionally he had even sparred with one of the guys. They had been trying to distract him, but he'd usually ended up getting pummeled because he just couldn't focus. Nothing could pull him out of his self-imposed daze. Not his mother's pleading. Not Vegeta's threats. Not Videl's cajoling. None of it worked. He was too far lost inside his mind.
As another bolt of lightning shot across the sky, he thought back to his childhood days of training under Piccolo, and how at first, he would have run screaming in terror from a storm like this.
His childhood…that was something he had always sworn to keep Goten from going through. He had met his brother for the first time shortly after the child had been born. That first day, he had sworn that he would protect his brother. And he had. Goten had grown up normally. Or at least as normal as anyone of Saiyan blood could grow up.
And yet, dispite his best efforts, Goten had still died at seven. Way too young for anyone to leave this world. In short, he'd failed. He had screwed up again.
After a bit of prodding, he had confided that particularly poisonous little thought to Piccolo, and gotten a stunned reaction. This hadn't been his fault, and there was nothing he could have done to stop what had happened. Everyone told him that, over and over again.
Part of him wanted desperately to believe them. The other half preferred this method of dealing with things: existing in a waking dream, wallowing in grief, pity, and self-accusation, swallowing most of his emotional reactions and hiding them behind blank eyes.
The sound of that familiar giggle again reached his ears, and he tried desperately to block it out. It was the same noise he'd heard only an hour or so before, right before his chair had been taken out from under him by an unseen person running by.
Why was he being haunted like this? Was it a punishment, a cruel torture designed to torment him for his helplessness? Well, if whatever powers were cursing him to be visited by the spirit of his little brother wanted to torture him, they were succeeding.
A glimmer of movement by the door grabbed his attention; he saw it out of the corner of his eye. For the first time since he'd taken that chair and settled in to watch the rain, he turned his head and looked away from the window.
He caught a mere glimpse of orange going out the door.
"Damn it…" he muttered, forcing his eyes back to the window. "Just leave me alone."
Unfortunately, Gohan was speaking to powers that weren't listening, because he heard the laughter again. And for a few brief moments, though not for the first time, he began wondering if he was just starting to go insane. If that was the case, it was a long time in coming. Goten's death had just ended up being the straw that broke the camel's back.
It was the middle of the night, and Gohan had just been dragged from a particularly sound sleep, the first decent rest he'd had in some time. At first, he wasn't quite sure what it was that woke him up. Then he realized that someone was frantically shaking his shoulder.
He pushed himself up onto his elbows and blinked into the darkness. Sure enough, there was someone standing next to his bed. He could only make out the person's outline, but it was a small someone.
His sleep-hazed mind didn't register anything odd about this. "Have a bad dream?" he asked sleepily. The person nodded. "You wanna sleep in here?" Affirmative. "Okay, climb in." He rolled over and lifted up one edge of the blanket to make room for the newcomer.
The mattress depressed slightly as someone climbed into the bed. The teenager felt soft hair tickling his nose as the person snuggled up close to him. To arms slid around his neck in a loose hug. For a moment, the room was silent; then the quiet was cracked, though not quite broken. "Why are you so sad, Gohan?" a familiar voice whispered just loudly enough to be heard.
"Goten's gone…" Gohan replied just as softly. He wasn't awake at all. "My brother's dead…"
"You feel bad?"
"Guilty…" he yawned. "Couldn't stop it…couldn't…protect…"
"Of course you couldn't, silly!" the person actually giggled. "How could you do anything? It's not your fault, okay? So stop beating yourself up over stupid stuff!"
"Yeah, but…" Gohan sounded confused. His mind was just starting to wake up, and it was only now beginning to realize that there was something very strange going on here.
"Let it go," the child said soothingly. "Just let it go and be happy again."
"But…can't…" he protested weakly.
"Let go," the person repeated calmly.
"Yes," the child insisted. Silence fell once again over the room. Then the person's arms tightened slightly around his neck, and he heard the softest of whispers. "I love you, big brother."
The floodgates burst under the weight of those five simple words, and Gohan cried. He sobbed out the heartbreak he had been hiding for two months. The child said nothing, but merely hugged him tighter, and let him cry himself out. It took a while, since he'd been bottling this up for nearly two months, but finally, the flood wore itself down to a few trickles.
"Feel better?" the child asked.
"Kind of…" Gohan breathed. "Except now my eyes are sore and my head hurts."
"'Cause you locked it up. Don't do that. Don't be so silly."
"Go back to sleep. I only got to come here to help you feel better. You're not actually awake. This is a special place. They said it was called Dreamtime. It's real, but you're really still sleeping. It's real, but it's your dream. Now I have to go back."
"But…" Gohan choked again, feeling like an idiot. That single syllable seemed to be the only word left in his normally extensive vocabulary.
"It'll be okay," the child's voice said calmly. "It's just like you said. I'm with Daddy now. Don't worry so much. I'm fine. Let go."
Gohan merely nodded. He felt himself slipping off to sleep again, as though some unseen force was draining his energy and forcing him back into slumber. Just before he was lost to this place called Dreamland, he felt a strange tugging sensation…and the feeling he was being pulled away.
As Gohan was pulled back to himself, the child remained behind. Slowly, a smile crossed the chibi's face. It was all going to be okay. Gohan had just needed a little boost to help him start healing.
Still smiling, Goten let himself be pulled back to the Otherworld, where his father was waiting to hear how things had gone.
With a gasp, Gohan sat straight up and looked around frantically. He was in his room.
In his bed.
Alone. Completely alone.
A part of him was relieved that no, he wasn't being haunted. But most of him wanted to scream in vexation and beat the stuffing out of something.
Then he noticed that his bedroom window was open. This was strange because he distinctly remembered closing it before going to bed. A soft evening breeze was blowing in, and the room was becoming very cold.
Gohan pushed the blankets off of his legs and walked across the room to the window. He looked out, then turned away and walked to his bookshelf and selected a large book. He set the book down on his desk and opened it. After paging through it for a moment, he found what he had been looking for.
Pressed flat between two pages of the book was a sprig of dried flowers. Forget-me-nots.
Goten had always loved forget-me-nots. They were definitely the child's favorite flower. Gohan still wasn't sure where this tiny spray of flowers had come from, since Goten had died during a season that wasn't right for the tiny blue-violet flowers to grow.
He lifted the miniature bouquet carefully by the stem and contemplated it for a while. Then, moving very slowly, as though walking in a trance, he walked back across the room to the open window and looked out again. It was a clear night, and the stars were shining gently in a sky of inky black velvet. The crisp evening breeze was still on the move.
His hand moved to the level of his eyes so that he could look at his prize. For a moment, he simply looked at it. Slowly, a soft, genuine smile crossed his face. It was the first time he had smiled in quite a long time, and to have that expression on his face again felt very strange.
Leaning out the window a little bit, he threw the flowers. They were caught on the wind, and carried away. He watched them dance on the breeze, and the smile grew a little bit wider.
All of the pain that had been running rampant in his heart, mind, and soul were gone. He wasn't quite sure of the who, how, or why, but it didn't matter.
It was time for Gohan to let go.
AN: I did something very dangerous and wrote a follow-up. This story is supposed to follow my songfic Fly. For those of you who haven't read it, Goten is stricken by a mysterious illness and dies. The whole forget-me-not thing is explained in there. I was a little nervous about this, so I ran it by a few of my friends who know DBZ, and got stellar ratings, so I went ahead and posted. If you really think it sucks, go ahead and tell me. Follow-ups are dangerous things, after all, and I'm a terrible judge of my own writing. Domo arigatou, and sayonara!