This is it, my dudes. The final chapter. I hope you enjoy it!
The class burst into applause as Videl and Gohan finished their demonstration. Today marked the end of their Phys Ed project and each pair was asked to present what they'd learned in front of the class.
Most of the presentations they'd watched had been major flops, proving their teacher's assertion that martial arts couldn't be learned without an instructor, but a few had been genuinely decent. Erasa and Sharpner had surprised the class by demonstrating a kung fu style based off salsa dancing and the two had awed their classmates with quick, flashy steps and lots of hip wagging.
When it came time for her and Gohan to present, they grinningly showed off their Soaring monkey style using a basketball hoop as a makeshift opponent. The class had oohed when Gohan sent her sailing high into the air and ahhed when she landed atop his raised hands. They finished their demonstration with a bow and their teacher clapped the loudest at their flawless execution of the techniques described in the book.
"Full marks!" he called over the hooting crowd. "Very well done!"
When the test was over and they were released to return to their classroom, Erasa and Sharpner rushed to congratulate them. "You guys, that was amazing!" Erasa squealed, clasping her hands in front of her. The small blonde had stars in her eyes.
Sharpner rounded on Gohan and slapped his back roughly. "Dude, that was the tightest thing I've ever seen! Why didn't tell me that you know kung fu? All this time I thought you were just a shrimpy bookworm, but you could pull of moves like that. No wonder Videl wanted to partner with you."
Gohan blushed and rubbed the back of his head. "It's not something I like to boast about," he mumbled bashfully.
Videl raised a hand to her mouth to stifle a smile. In the past month since her kidnapping, Gohan had made great leaps of progress in his training. He'd abandoned his oath not to fight and he and her dad had begun training together a few times a week after school. Her dad might not be as powerful as Gohan, but he knew a thing or two about technique and Gohan had shown a great deal of enthusiasm in learning new fighting styles from him. In no time at all, her friend had become his star-pupil. In return, Gohan had been teaching the two of them all about ki manipulation.
As if triggered by Sharpner and Erasa, Videl and Gohan found themselves suddenly surrounded by students praising their skills and asking questions about their training. The two were swept up in a mass interrogation that didn't end until their next teacher entered the room and called for quiet, having to slap her ruler on the chalkboard to be heard.
After school, for the first time since Videl's kidnapping, she and Gohan took the park route to her house. They walked side by side, discussing their day and what they'd learned in their classes. This time, Gohan didn't have his nose in a book, and when they reached the park, she was caught off guard when he abruptly and firmly grasped her hand.
"Gohan?" she questioned, raising a brow at her friend.
Gohan said nothing. He merely squeezed her hand more tightly and kept walking.
When they'd safely passed the park, Gohan relaxed his grip but didn't let go. Videl was a little confused by his abnormal behavior but she let him hold her hand without comment. Walking hand in hand was nice and her cheeks flushed just a little at the intimacy of the action.
As they neared her house, Videl suddenly remembered another question she'd meant to ask the boy walking beside her. It had been forgotten in all the excitement of learning about ki, but now seemed as good a time as ever to ask it. "Hey, Gohan, I forgot to ask before, but what was with the color changing hair in that footage we watched? That one guy's hair changed suddenly from black to gold, and after you beat Cell, I know I saw your hair changed to black. You never explained that."
Gohan blinked, seemingly caught off guard by her question, and turned look at her. "Oh, that." He scratched his head and gave her a strange half-smile. "I guess now that you've seen it, I don't have to hide it anymore."
Before Videl could wonder what he meant by that, Gohan's appearance suddenly changed right before her eyes. Just as she'd seen in the tape, the gold of his hair faded to black and his aquamarine eyes darkened to a deep onyx. Videl's jaw went slack in shock.
"What—what just …? How did you do that?" she demanded when she found her voice again.
The now raven-haired Gohan smiled and lifted a hand to his hair. "Actually, this is how I normally look. What you've seen up until now is a secondary form I'm able to adopt thanks to my Saiyan heritage. I only kept it up because that's the form I was using when you met me and I didn't want to confuse you." He scratched his head bashfully.
"Wait," she stopped him before he could confuse her any more. "So, you're saying that all this time you've been, like, in disguise?"
Gohan tilted his head and frowned thoughtfully. "Well, I wouldn't call it a disguise, exactly. It's still me. It's more of a mode?" He crossed his arms and looked at the ground. "I don't really know how to describe it."
Whatever the science was behind it, Gohan definitely looked different with his hair and eyes changed to black. He looked more like a normal kid and Videl found that actually a little comforting. It would take her a while to get used to seeing him like this, but even without the exotic coloring she was used to, this version of him was still strikingly handsome.
Not that she was going to tell him that.
"So, wait," she spoke again partly to move her thoughts away from that track, "if this is how you normally look, then why were you in that 'mode' when I met you in the woods?"
At her question, Gohan's expression seemed to dim somewhat. He looked back up at her and in his eyes she saw a ghost of the pain that had been there when his dad had disappeared along with Cell. Inwardly, she smacked herself for unknowingly asking a sensitive question again.
"I guess I was trying to be closer to dad," he said after a time. "That form is something that came from him and when I'm in it I feel a little like he's still with me. That day you found me, I was really missing him." His expression brightened then and his smile returned. "But you know what? Ever since I met you, I haven't had time to feel sad about dad. I'd been sinking into depression without realizing it but you pulled me out of it. I'm really grateful for that."
Videl blushed and looked away. She didn't know how to react when Gohan put her on the spot like this. If he kept talking like that, she was going to do something foolish like kiss him again and she'd have a much harder time explaining it away this time. "Don't mention it," she said somewhat awkwardly.
"I mean it, though," he persisted, much to her chagrin. "Every day I've spent with you has been the most fun I've ever had. You've even made martial arts enjoyable and I swore I'd never fight again unless it was to protect the people I love. You're like an angel sent to pick me up out of my slump and put me back on track."
Never before had Videl wanted to correct someone so fiercely. She wasn't an angel. Not in the slightest. If anyone was an angel, it was him. He was the savior of the world. He was their unsung messiah. She couldn't possibly accept him putting her on any kind of pedestal because as far as she was concerned no pedestal existed that was higher than his.
But instead of arguing with him, she instead zoned in on one of the statements he'd just made that caused her heart to speed up hopefully. "You said you'd only fight to protect the people you love…" she said, forcing her tone to remain neutral, "but you fought to protect me. Does that mean…that you love me, Gohan?"
There. It was out. It was probable that Gohan would take the question to mean platonically, but Videl wanted to hear his answer all the same. Her heart thumped in her chest in anticipation.
Gohan cocked his head to the side and studied her with large, innocent eyes. "Of course I do," he answered easily. "You're the best friend I've ever had."
Videl exhaled a put-upon sigh and shook her head. She knew that would be his answer. She didn't let that get her down, though. This was just another case of Gohan being Gohan and it only meant she'd need to be a little more forward to get what she wanted.
Well, no time like the present to get started, she decided. She didn't even care about explaining herself anymore. Giving Gohan a wry smile, she placed her hands on his shoulders, rose onto her tiptoes, and placed her mouth on his.
Gohan didn't fight her and she was allowed to hold the kiss for several seconds before she finally pulled away, dropping back onto her heels.
When she looked at his face again, Gohan's cheeks were pink and his eyes were fixed on hers. He opened his mouth, probably intending to ask her what that was for just like last time, but she didn't let him.
"Don't worry about it," she said breezily. "I just felt like doing it."
Videl might never have been in a relationship with anyone before, but she could tell that it was going to take lots of baby steps to get Gohan on the same page as her. That was okay, though. She really liked Gohan and she was willing to be patient.
No sooner had she finished this thought, she felt a pair of arms come around her waist and then Gohan was kissing her much more fiercely than she'd kissed him. He held her tightly and angled his mouth against hers for maximum smooshage. When he released her a moment later, he was smiling slyly. Now she was the one who wasn't given a chance to speak as he merely said, "So did I."
Videl spluttered. That..! That conniving little…!
Gohan grinned at her expression of disbelief and stuck his tongue out at her. Before she could react, he was already running in the direction of her house.
"Son Gohan!" she screeched after him. "You get back here this instant!" Without wasting another moment, she took off after him.
She wasn't certain just yet what she was going to do when she caught him, but she had a feeling Gohan wasn't going to mind too much.
"So," Krillin took it upon himself to break the silence that hung over the beach outside Kame House. "Gohan's taking lessons from Mr. Satan now. That's a thing."
Way out in the distance, the speck that was their young, half-saiyan friend disappeared into a cloud. The boy in question had just left after joining Krillin, Bulma, Yamcha, Roshi, and to everyone's, surprise, Piccolo for a small barbecue. During that time, the bright-eyed youth had dropped the news that he'd begun training under none other than the world champion lauded for his victory against the terrible Cell, Hercule Satan.
The group had, quite understandably, been shocked. Bulma had slammed her palms on the table and cried, "Are you joking? Mr. Satan?"
The rest, including Krillin, had vocalized similar protests, everyone clamoring to ask what he was thinking becoming the pupil of a hack like Mr. Satan. After all, the man was so far beneath him that Gohan could probably send him flying with a sneeze.
In the face of his friends' protests, Gohan had just smiled and said, "Yeah, but he's actually really knowledgeable about martial arts. Did you know that he once spent a month training in Yunzabit Heights? He met a hermit up there who taught him a style of Kung Fu called the Descending Dragon and it's actually super amazing. There are so many incredible styles of martial arts out there that I didn't even know about. I want to study as many of them as I can."
He'd continued in that vein for the next ten minutes, enthusiastically talking about all the different kinds of training Mr. Satan had been through and how it was no wonder everyone looked up to him. Krillin and the rest could only listen slack-jawed as he waxed poetic about a man all of them had firmly believed was a nothing more than a loud-mouthed sham.
When the boy had bade them farewell at last, his friends waved him off in stunned silence. Nobody could believe what they'd just learned.
"Well," Piccolo responded when it looked like nobody else was going to, "it may not make sense to us, but it sounds like he's found his reason to fight again. That's what matters."
On Krillin's other side, Master Roshi scratched his chin. "The Descending Dragon Style, eh?" he spoke in his creaky old-man voice. "That would be old Hickory's work. I'd heard he'd taken an apprentice, but I never suspected it was Mr. Satan. The world really is full of surprises."
Suddenly, Bulma cursed and smacked her thigh, startling everyone gathered. "Dammit! I totally forgot to ask Gohan about that guy's daughter! That was my chance!"
Beside her, Yamcha's eyes widened and he said, "Oh, shoot, yeah!"
Krillin looked back and forth between them, confused. "Whose daughter? Mr. Satan's? What?"
Bulma's brows were pinched in frustration at herself. In her arms, baby Trunks made a confused gurgle. "Yeah. Gohan's been hanging out with her and I'm almost certain there's something going on between them." She shook her head and sighed. "Darn it. I was really looking forward to hounding him about it."
Krillin's reaction to Bulma's revelation was immediate. He took a surprised step backward and said, "Wait, Gohan's girlfriend is Mr. Satan's daughter?! No way! I don't believe it. You've got to be joking."
All around him, his friends all shook their heads and Yamcha said, "Nope. She's the one alright."
Krillin let out a cry of frustration and raised his arms to the sky. "Why am I always the last one to find out about these things?"
(lol jk, there's a little more.)
Dappled sunlight filtered through the trees and onto Gohan's face as he stood on the grassy bank of the river near his house. This was the place he always felt the most connected to his dad and it had been a long while since he'd last visited it.
Today, though, he had a purpose for being here.
"Hey, Dad. It's me."
As always, the air around him was filled with the sounds of nature. Birds twittered in the trees and crickets chirped in the bushes and occasionally the tranquility was split by the sound of a dinosaur's cry.
"I know you're listening, so I just wanted to say a few things," he started, focusing his eyes on the cloudless blue sky. "Firstly, I know I've already said this, but I'm sorry for not killing Cell when you told me to. I let my pride control me and not a day's gone by that I haven't regretted it. I've blamed myself again and again, knowing that if I'd just done as you said, you'd still be here. Mom wouldn't have cried every night for a month and Goten would have a dad. I messed up in the worst way and there will be a part of myself that I'll hate until the day I die."
This was a speech he'd been rehearsing for some time now. Soon, it would be a year since the battle with Cell and he wanted—no, he needed to get these feelings off his chest.
"But you know what? I've also realized something very important about myself in these past nine months, and that's that there's a part of me that's angry with you, too. What I'm going to say is going to sound harsh, but it's something that I believe needs to be said. For both our sakes.
"As much as I've hated myself for being the cause of your death, you also made me hate myself for not being enough for you. My whole life, all I wanted was to be with you, my father, but the number one thing in your heart was never me, or even mom. It's always been fighting. It took me all this time to finally come to terms with my anger about your decision not to come back. I didn't want to blame you because I knew you never meant to hurt us. But now I realize that I have to. I need to tell you how sad and upset and confused I felt in the months following your passing, trying to understand why you weren't here anymore. I want to move on and I know I won't be able to do that until I've addressed the feelings that are holding me back, so that's what I'm doing now. I want you to forgive me, and I also want to be able to forgive you. I hope that by airing my grievances to you like this I'll be able to make that happen."
Gohan paused to take a breath. He closed his eyes and inhaled the sweet summer air and then exhaled slowly.
"The second thing I wanted to tell you is that I've decided to stop punishing myself. I met someone who taught me that I can have my own goals for fighting and that I don't have to adhere to the Saiyan tradition of chasing rage and pain to make myself stronger. I'm going to combine my training with my studies and become a martial arts scholar. Fighting was always something I hated, but I still want to pursue it and find a way to take pleasure in it because it's something that came from you. Even if you're not here anymore, you'll always be an important part of me and I've decided not to run away from that."
The black-haired pre-teen smiled up at the sky. He hoped his dad was watching.
"The last thing I wanted to say is that even though I might not fully be there just yet, I'm going to be okay. We're going to be okay. I want you to know that. You had the best intentions in mind when you made your decision to stay in the afterlife and I can accept that. I still miss you terribly, but I know that I'll see you again someday and at that time I'm excited to try again with you."
The summer air shifted and a breeze brought the smell of cooking to his nose. His mom would be finishing up dinner by now. He needed to get home and help with Goten.
"That's about all I have to say for now. I'll keep you updated on what's going on down here so make sure to pay attention, okay?"
His bit said, Gohan turned and began walking back up the embankment toward his home. Wherever his dad was now, Gohan was sure he'd heard every word. Goku would watch over them. And someday, maybe after he'd proven himself in some bigshot otherworld tournament or saved the multiverse or something, Gohan hoped he would be allowed to come back for a visit. Even if it was just for a day.
He had someone very important to introduce to him.
Fin (for real)
I can't believe this story is actually over. What am I going to do with my life now that it's done? This is the first big writing project I've done since returning to the States after five years abroad and it's come to define my time here.
Most of you probably know by now the meaning behind the title. This wasn't just a Gohan/Videl story, it was a story about Gohan learning to forgive Goku and also himself and find his own way forward after what happened. I think that he was able to do that here. I've already mentioned to some of you that this story was a long time in coming for me. I first watched the Cell Games when I was twelve and since that time I've always been interested in Gohan and wanted to see him be actually affected by the Cell fight. Back then, I didn't have the writing skill or life experience to undertake that kind of project, but now I do and so I finally went for it. I'm truly glad that so many of you out there were able to enjoy this story and I can't tell you how pleased I am every time somebody tells me it resonated with them. My very first fanfiction was a G/V story and now, sixteen years later, I've come full circle.
To everyone who's taken the time to drop me a review along the way, thank you so much for your support. You've made this experience a treat for me. I don't know yet what my next project will be, but I hope Gohan and Videl will reappear sometime in the future.
Lastly, I have one more tiny doodle to drop on you. Go check it out.
cabbage-foam. tumblr (dotcom) /post/178767663937/one-last-doodle