A/N: I meant to get this up for Memorial Day, but I've been up on getting time or energy to finish it. The second half should be up sometime in the next week. Hope you all enjoy, and a salute to anyone who has lost someone in war.
The optimism in the atmosphere was palpable. Videl was used to being in the center of it- rather her father being in the center of it. This year was no different for the anniversary of the Cell Games. Everyone was in celebration of the earth still standing, with Satan City as the epicenter. Videl was used to it. However, unable to escape the loud cheers became annoying after a while.
She sipped her drink, watching as Sharpener played a strength-o-meter with her father's grinning face at top. It was kind of unnerving, especially with the rest of the machine being modeled after Cell. She glanced at Erasa, "Where's Gohan?" she asked. There was no school today, and the reclusive nerd failed to show up. She wouldn't be worried about it if not for his absence yesterday as well.
No, she was not actually worried for her friend. It was none of her business. Same for Erasa, so could her best friend stop giving her that smirk?
"I don't know." The blonde shrugged.
Videl pursed her lips. When she asked him a few days ago what he would be doing for the celebrations, he gave her a look that read that she was crazy and he was a kicked puppy. It was one that did not leave him for the rest of the day.
No, she was not worried about him.
Maybe she could go drag him out of his house and get her shy friend to cheer up. The festivals around the world can be obnoxious, yet they were great to just lose yourself in for the day. That was the whole point.
Videl said goodbye to her friends and then told her father that she will be out of town for the day. That took a moment of explaining – she just wanted air away from the festivities – and she flew off.
It took a few hours for her to reach Gohan's house. She was amazed at his dedication to make this a roundtrip every day. She rolled her eyes good naturedly about halfway there. He was so weird. The little house was hard to find within the wilderness, and Videl hoped that this one in the middle of nowhere was right, or else this would be very awkward.
It would be awkward either way. She slowed her feet as she approached the door. Videl had not called ahead or given any indication of her arrival out of the blue. It had been a spur of the moment decision to make a long trip in the first place. She swallowed. This was fine. She would check on Gohan, apologize for her intrusion, and then leave.
The Son household was… off. There was a heavy, solemn air around the place. She could see no one outside playing the silly little games people came up for the holiday or having a picnic in the nice weather. Instead, the windows were all shut, like they imagined it was in the middle of the night and wanted for the day to disappear. She pushed her hair back in a nervous gesture. Maybe no one was home. It wasn't odd for a family to celebrate at a friend's house.
Videl stayed by the door, hand raised, for a minute before she scoffed at herself. She knocked and held her breath.
No one answered. However, a few seconds after her fist hit the wood, she thought she heard children's voices whispering inside. Huh. She could not distinguish any words, just the youth in them, and she batted down the nosy part of her personality that said to press her ear to the door and listen.
The door opened. Two boys stood there staring at her with a mix of curious and distrustful eyes. Videl gaped. Both seemed familiar to her, but she could not put a name to them. The one with the spikey black hair was the first to break the silence. "Hey! Who are you?"
She was not immediately recognized as Videl Satan? She wasn't sure whether to be offended or relieved. Forcing the words out, she offered a smile. "My name's Videl. Is Gohan here?"
The older boy answered. "No." There was no further explanation.
She stood at the door uneasily and was thinking about excusing herself when the younger of the two spoke up. He glanced around, unsure of if he should do this, and then smiled. "Do you want to come in miss?" She nodded.
The children stood aside and Videl walked in. It was a nice home. Clean, but she couldn't help but think that it was dark. With the curtains drawn, the only light came from another room, where she guessed the two were before they answered the door. She could not see Gohan or any adults.
The raven-haired boy closed the door and smiled at her. "I'm Goten." He waved. She remembered that Gohan mentioned his brother in the past; he must have shown a picture once. He pointed at his friend. "That's Trunks." The older kid scowled but wiggled his fingers in a brief greeting.
Redness crept up her cheeks, and Videl cursed herself in her mind. She had no idea what she was doing. This wasn't what she expected when she came to check on Gohan. "Where's Gohan?" she asked. For some reason, she kept her voice low. It felt right in the somber atmosphere.
Goten blinked in confusion. "He always goes to the mountain to train today." She furrowed her brow. Train? Goten continued before she could ask. "Do you want to play games with us? We were stacking up building blocks!"
"Sure." She replied. She was curious to ask Gohan what he was doing when he got back, and it would be a shame to spend all the time flying here for no reason. Goten grabbed her wrist and tugged her in the direction of the lit room. The room was spotless besides a stack of blocks and action fingers piled at the center. Videl was shocked (and somewhat grateful) to see that they did not have a Mr. Satan figure. Those were always embarrassing to pass in stores.
Unsure what to do, Videl sat down next to the two boys, content to just watch. She was not the greatest with kids, and that showed in her posture. When they stared at her, she smiled.
Trunks was quiet when Goten chatted away, though he sent a few glares her way. She wondered what his problem was. After some thinking, she realized he must be Trunks Briefs (since when did Gohan know them?), which explained his haughty rich boy behavior. There was something else though. He had tense soldiers and frowned even when engaging with his friend. Goten, in reality, wasn't much better. There was honest happiness in his eyes, but he seemed tired and anxious about something.
What was wrong here?
Videl wanted to ask. One of her best traits: her curiosity, and how that led her to read a situation properly and get answers. One of her worst? Nosiness. She believed that if she questioned she would fall in the latter category. She had no wish to pop the uneasy bubble hanging over the room.
"Where are your parents?" She assumed if Trunks visited all the way out here it was not alone, and everything Gohan said about his mother was that she would hover to make sure her children were all right.
Goten deflated at her words. He picked up his action figure and idly crashed it into one of the buildings. "Mom always spends the first half of this day by herself. I think it's 'cause she doesn't want us to see her weak. Then she'll make a big feast tonight!" He managed to finish with a bit more enthusiasm. "She's in her room right now looking at old pictures."
Debating over it, Videl guessed they must be grieving. She remembered locking herself away in her room after her mother died. That or holed up the gym, where no punching bag stood a chance.
Trunks took a minute to answer, not wanting to. "Mom is always mopey today. She locks herself in her lab and makes sure to get something productive done. Dad's the opposite. He says as a mark of respect to not train on the day an honorable warrior died. He isn't able to look at me properly though. I come here to get a break and spend time with Goten."
Her heart went out to the two boys. She was clueless on how to help, understanding little on the situation, but picked up one of the action figures and played city vs. monsters with them.
Time trickled by slowly; however, Videl could not find it in herself to worry about it too much. She knew it was selfish- claiming the boys' time on a serious day and leaving her friends and father back at Satan City. She did not believe that her father would mind too much; this was the busiest day of the year for him. As long as she was back by dinner (without the world breathing down their necks) she would be fine. Although she felt bad leaving Erasa and Sharpener, she sent Erasa a text saying that she won't have time to meet up again today.
She cared that the air was peaceful. Not necessarily happy, yet the lack of energy in the air compared to the spark currently going on in Satan City was a relief.
"Oh," Videl's gaze traveled to the door to spot who had spoken to see an older woman standing at the doorway. Her hair was pulled back, and tired lines creased her face. It took only a moment for her eyes to sharpen and assess the stranger in her house.
"Mom!" Goten stood up and launched himself in his mother's arms within the next second. She smiled down at him and then turned her eyes back on Videl.
"Hey Aunt Chi Chi." Trunks said, stacking a few blocks up before placing his action figure on top.
Bringing herself to her feet, she smiled at the older woman. "Hello. I'm Gohan's classmate, and I wanted to check in on him. I'm sorry I didn't have number to call ahead of time." She was aware her words sounded stilted, and she squirmed under the scrutinizing glare.
"Is that so?" Chi Chi's voice was hard, yet Videl took some comfort that it was not angry. Before the mama bear could ask anything else, Goten tugged on her sleeve.
"I let her in. She's nice and has been playing with us."
Chi Chi sighed softly. "You can't just let strangers in as simply as that, Goten." The wide puppy dog eyes the child deployed took a few seconds to melt her heart. It succeeded; Videl was impressed even as the crime fighter in her agreed with Chi Chi.
She stepped forward and offered her hand. "Videl. I should have come to you when I came in, but the boys made it sound like you needed time alone." Before she could use her last name, something caught in her throat and she had a gut feeling that will be a bad idea. Chi Chi accepted the hand and gave a wane smile.
"Thank you. I also apologize; I should notice when a guest or intruder enters my home." Videl could tell how worn out the woman was so did not comment further. The mother went on. "And for looking after these two. It could be a handful on good days."
"It wasn't a problem."
Chi Chi left for the kitchen to start on cooking, and Goten trailed after her to help. Trunks stayed behind to pick up the blocks and action figures, and Videl bent down to help him. She worked her mouth to ask the question that's been lurking at the back of her mind since she arrived. "Why is everyone so down?" Her hushed voice still seemed too loud since the last thing she wanted was to step over unknown bounds.
The child's intense blue eyes stared into her own. It was impossible to read his expression before his shoulders slumped. "It's the anniversary of when Goten's dad died." He snapped and piled the rest of the toys in a nearby box.
Videl was about to excuse herself and head back home – she had no idea when Gohan was supposed to get back and she could see her friend – but the hollow feeling in her gut told her to wait a few more minutes. Her nosy side reared its head and demanded she asked for more details, yet she shoved it down. It was easy to guess that at school Gohan did not like to talk about his dad. The side of her that mourned after the loss of her mother empathized with him. She knew about her friend's loss, but seeing the grief in work was another thing.
Chi Chi focused on Goten as pulled out a lot of ingredients out of the fridge. "Can you go find Gohan? We'll be ready in a couple hours and it will be good for him to get out of his head and help."
Videl's vocal chords worked on their own accord. "Can I do it?" She flushed under the attention, yet she met Chi Chi's eyes with her own. She pushed on, "Please? I came over to see him, and afterward I'll get out of the way." Chi Chi seemed suspicious, and Videl did not blame her. She probably sounded like a love-struck girl. Her brain harrumphed at the thought. The truth was, in this moment, the part of her that yearned to be a hero screamed that she helped out.
She was surprised that the older woman relented. Chi Chi shook her head and then gazed out the window. "Fine, but you should watch yourself." Maybe the matriarch was not as keen at the idea as she believed. "He's never one to talk much today. You can find him on the top of the mountain there." She motioned outside the window to where she was talking about. Prior to the woman being able to change her mind, Videl thanked her and quickly left through the door.
She brought out her capsule jet and looked off in the distance. That was quite a ways away. And at the top of the mountain? She wondered how Goten would have gotten there in time if he wasn't old enough to drive or pilot anything. Shaking the stray thought out of her head, she headed off.
A/N: I tried to convey that uneasy feeling one has when being around people grieving on the outside looking in, and unable to fully understand/do anything to help. Not sure how well I did. Next half will be up soon and look to see how Gohan copes with his grief.