"Now here's a fight that'll be really interesting. It's a father-son showdown to decide who faces Mr. Satan in the final round!"
The younger Trunks observed his father and his older counterpart enter the ring with conflict. Just like when Future Trunks first showed up, the younger boy's brain was a mess. On one hand, there was his father, and on the other hand, there was, well…himself.
Trunks suddenly stood up and raised his fist in the air, deciding who to root for.
"Go, me!" Trunks shouted.
Goten looked at Trunks and quickly decided who he'd root for, too. "Go, 'Geta!"
"I guess Trunks is out for himself!" Roshi quipped.
After laughing at her son's shenanigans, Bulma set her eyes on the fight that was about to begin. Clearly, Future Trunks invited Vegeta to the tournament to try to force him out his slump. Hopefully, a father-son duel would do the trick.
Gohan and Piccolo stood inside to observe the battle, soon joined by a certain pig-tailed fighter. "I guess this is like the main event for you guys, huh?" Videl remarked.
Gohan nodded. After the Junior Division tournament wrapped up, two of Videl's friends had come out to encourage her and chat. One of them, a tall blond boy named Sharpner, couldn't stop asking Gohan to tell him his secrets and work out with him. And then her other friend, a blonde girl named Erasa, was a handful. If Videl hid her affection behind hostility, that girl was way too eager to show hers. If Gohan had a coin for every time she called him cute, he wouldn't have needed the prize money.
Probably to get her mind off fighting, Videl chose to hang out with them rather than watch the main tournament. But she returned in time for Trunks and Vegeta's fight.
Vegeta took a deep breath to try calming himself. He hadn't engaged in battle since the fateful day of the Cell Games, and he had trouble fighting off the nerves that arose. While his Ki control remained sharp thanks to his lessons with the younger Trunks, he had no way of gauging where he stood elsewhere.
If Trunks knew anything about Vegeta, it was that he preferred kicking fights off aggressively. This hesitant variation mystified him. Even as he crouched into the customary fighting stance that Trunks had seen numerous times in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, his movements possessed uncharacteristic trepidation.
Opting to draw Vegeta's instincts out himself, Trunks took on the role of aggressor. He flew at Vegeta, and when his father barely blocked the ensuing punch by the skin of his teeth, Trunks realized this was going to be a bit of a process.
Though he didn't intend to, Trunks practically taunted Vegeta with how quickly he evaded the punch he'd thrown in response. Seeing Trunks' composure compared to his ramped up Vegeta's intensity, producing a flurry of punches from the prince. Trunks still remained a step ahead of him however, ducking, dodging and blocking Vegeta's attacks with little evidence of exerting himself.
The advantage was obvious. Trunks knew it, too. After swiftly jumping sideways to avoid a stronger punch, Trunks delivered a kick straight to his father's jaw that sent him airborne. If that wasn't enough, he phased behind Vegeta and slammed his elbow into his back hard enough to send him crashing back down to the ring.
"Ouch! It looks like Trunks has Vegeta's number early and is just a step faster than him! I'll begin the count! One…"
The announcer couldn't even finish saying "two" before Vegeta hopped back up and flew after Trunks. His frenzy only earned him a dropkick to his chest. While he regained his bearings before he hit the floor, he couldn't keep up with Trunks' tenacity. Vegeta just barely lifted two hands to block the fist that came his way in time, and all that accomplished was leaving him open for the knee that sunk into his gut. As the full-blooded Saiyan clutched his stomach in agony, his half-breed son took advantage and slammed both of his arms down on his back sending him in a spiral down to the ring again.
He didn't stop there. Before Vegeta could even land again, Trunks kicked him in the waist to send him tumbling to ringside. Just narrowly, Vegeta thwarted an embarrassing ring out loss by using his hand to spring from the ring's edge and leap into the sky.
To his chagrin, Trunks already floated behind him by the time he finished his ascent. Two seconds later, he reacquainted with the floor courtesy of an elbow delivered pin-point on the back of his neck. That one kept him down for a couple of counts.
Mercifully, as Vegeta stumbled his way back up, Trunks didn't return for another assault. The prince angrily spat blood into the ground, cursing his futility. His rust ran far deeper than he'd thought. Trunks had him fumbling like an amateur out there.
As nice as it was getting the better of Vegeta in a fight for once, Trunks didn't feel much satisfaction. This clumsy, helpless fighter wasn't the Vegeta he knew. It may have been rust, Trunks pondered, but every movement his father made appeared tentative. Tentative – the absolute last word anybody could use to describe Vegeta. It was time to try something rash to fix that.
If it weren't for the purple hair and blue eyes, the smirk that Trunks put on display would've been a mirror image of Vegeta's. "Heh, you're going soft, aren't you, dad?"
Vegeta's eyes nearly doubled in size. That arrogant tone sounded almost foreign coming from future Trunks' mouth. "Wh-What?"
Trunks smile deepened as he went along. "I wanted to fight you because I thought you'd kept up with your training, but you're not even worth my time."
Trunks' taunts earned a ferocious snarl from his father. Vegeta could stand for a lot of things – okay, no he couldn't – but he would not accept being insulted by his meek, soft-spoken son.
"How dare you," Vegeta snarled, a vein in his forehead pulsating as his fists tightened.
From afar, Gohan laughed.
Almost there! Trunks thought. As if he hadn't already imitated his father's mannerisms well enough, he was now folding his arms and tilting his head back. "I guess I should've just hidden my power from you like I did when we got out of the time chamber!"
Vegeta pursued Trunks with a feral roar. The younger Saiyan jumped into the sky, but Vegeta met him in seconds. The prince's senses were prescient, allowing him to follow Trunks' movements effortlessly. Still, Trunks evaded a kick sent his way, but it would be the last chance he got to go untouched.
The second Trunks moved again, Vegeta's fist violently collided with his jaw. He didn't even have a chance to fly backwards before Vegeta kicked him in the chest, his foot getting him in his solar plexus. Two fists to the back of the head later, and it was Trunks who crashed into the ring's surface.
"And Vegeta answers his son's assault by saying 'Trunks, you're grounded!' One…"
Vegeta almost felt like laughing as he caught his breath, and not at the announcer's abysmal joke. It had been too long since he'd dished out pain. But he didn't have much time to bask in the feeling, knowing his son's toughness. As soon as the announcer said three, Trunks stood back up.
As he'd done when he talked him into joining the tournament, Trunks pushed the right button. Vegeta's pride couldn't stay tucked under forever. Turning the intensity up several notches, Trunks fired a wave of Ki into the sky; Vegeta vaporized it with the palm of his hands and flew back down to the ring.
"Toy with me, will you?!" Vegeta sneered. He soon grinned, however. "Fine."
Both Gohan and Piccolo gasped when they felt Vegeta's Ki rise. This may have amounted to nothing more than a frivolous exhibition fight, but that was clearly irrelevant to Vegeta now.
Golden aura exploded around Vegeta. His hair took on the same color. His eyes flashed to teal. It was Vegeta's Super Saiyan transformation, unleashed in front of tens of thousands of flabbergasted fans.
A loud thud and raspy cry of anguish emerged from a room in the top floor of the tournament's compound.
Videl tried to form words, but nothing could escape from her mouth besides gasps and stutters. This was the technique from the Cell Games, with the blazing aura and golden hair. And that was to say nothing of the Ki blasts, which dwarfed what Gohan taught her into a tennis ball.
"Wow…what do you guys even do that for?" Videl asked. "Is it just to look cool or something?"
"Nope, it's to increase our power. We get even stronger in that state," Gohan explained.
"Can…can I learn it too?!"
"'Fraid not," Gohan snickered.
"Call it a fashion statement or a transformation, but Vegeta's hair has taken on a golden form!" The announcer said, hanging from the edge of the ring as the heavy gusts of wind their powers produced threatened to blow him away.
"It's about time!" Trunks shouted, before transforming as well. Now the force had grown too strong for the announcer's grip, and he drifted away from the ring. Luckily a force courtesy of a Namekian finger kept him from hitting any walls.
An enormous Ki radiated around Trunks. Vegeta could sense a power from it exceeding his own, confirming Trunks' improvement. Still, it was nothing Vegeta feared – as an elite Saiyan, he would find a way to overcome it.
The father and son clashed in mid-air, the force of their collision producing a shockwave that shook the entire arena. Soon, they were engaging in mid-air hand-to-hand combat so fast that none of the fans had a hope of following them.
"Well, fans, I wish I could call the action for you guys, but I'm just about lost." The Announcer thought Piccolo and Goku's battle was the craziest thing he'd ever seen, but he was clearly mistaken.
To Videl, all she could see was a series of blurs and ripple effects in the air. Her eyeballs worked overtime to keep track of the two, but the entire practice was an exercise in sensory overload. She observed Gohan and Piccolo, both of whom stood calmly while their pupils moved back and forth.
"Wait, can you guys actually see this stuff?" Videl asked. "How can your eyes even keep up?"
"Well that's the thing; we're not just using our eyes," Gohan calmly explained. "We're feeling out their Ki."
"Oh, right." Videl didn't have a clue what Gohan had just said.
The battle was a total back and forth between the two. Trunks would land a powerful strike, Vegeta would answer back. But as the exchange wore on, their gap in power grew more evident. Trunks' attacks left more impact, making it increasingly difficult for Vegeta to keep up. That did nothing to dull Vegeta's drive, however, only ramping it up a notch or three.
Trunks aimed a kick at Vegeta's skull that may have knocked him out, but the prince exploded his energy around him. It knocked Trunks far enough away for Vegeta to blast him with a long-range stream of Ki. Trunks crashed into the ring's surface, and as soon as he stood up Vegeta rained a shower of blasts down on him. Unlike with Piccolo earlier, Trunks was his sole target.
By that point, the audience had given up on trying to make sense of what they were seeing, instead cheering like it was a pro wrestling showdown. It was hard to even claim them tricks up close and personal, where the impact could be felt.
Vegeta ceased his assault to catch his breath. Smoke submerged the ring, while the announcer decided it was best to just remain out of it for the remainder of the fight. As the smoke cleared, the extent of the battle's damage displayed itself. The once perfectly white surface of the ring was battered and cracked.
And in the middle of it, Trunks still stood. Arms crossed and reeling, but standing nonetheless.
"Damn it all," Vegeta spat. As he descended to the ring's surface, he considered another approach.
When Vegeta landed, he smirked and squeezed both fists at his sides tightly. As his Ki swelled, the ground shook. An even more intense aura burst from him as his muscles expanded, raising alarm from Trunks. It was that transformation: the energy-expending mutation of Super Saiyan that the two had mistaken for the ascended form. It was a transformation he'd thought Vegeta was smart enough to reject, but perhaps a lack of practice dulled his battle senses.
But if Vegeta wanted to fight at that level, Trunks would gladly even the playing field. He unleashed the same transformation. "So it's back to that form, huh?!"
The two charged at each other, and the second Trunks sluggishly swung his fists, Vegeta's body practically deflated. He swiftly escaped the lethal punch coming his way and blasted Trunks' back.
"AMATEUR!" Vegeta taunted as he spryly dove at his son and struck him several times in his spine. He gathered his finishing blow, but Trunks tried to move out of the way. The dullness of his movements only meant Vegeta striking him from a different angle. Indeed, a vicious elbow nailed Trunks in the side of his skull, sending him to floor.
Vegeta couldn't resist mocking Trunks as the announcer proceeded with his count. "Foolish boy! You couldn't help getting baited into that joke of a form, could you?"
His laughs were cut short when Trunks delivered a Ki blast even as he lay on the floor that launched him into the sky. Trunks chased after him, and the clash of Super Saiyan strength waged on. Trunks had smartly powered down to his regular Super Saiyan form, chiding himself for falling for Vegeta's trap. But that showed how quickly Vegeta's battle wit had returned.
The younger Trunks watched his father and future counterpart duel with his mouth hung open. He'd never seen his dad fight for real, and that was to say nothing of the strength that he'd clearly grow to possess once he got old enough. When this tournament was over, he was gonna hound his dad to train him as often as possible.
Gohan could sense the end of the fight drawing near. Vegeta and Trunks were swinging for the fences with every attack now. The reluctance in Vegeta's movements were ancient history, the ferocity customary for the Saiyan prince in its place. Trunks descended to ring as he and Vegeta exchanged intense gazes, looking every bit like warriors engaged in mortal combat. Vegeta was clearly going to need a new white tank top and black jeans, while the residual damage from his fight with Piccolo was catching up to Trunks. It allowed Vegeta to catch up.
Vegeta decided it was time to lay the fight on the line. He cuffed his hands together, gathering an enormous amount of Ki to them. He was mindful of all of the people around him, of course, but he was confident it was enough to put Trunks down for at least a ten count. Trunks knew exactly what his father was up to and crossed his hands above his head to prepare an attack himself. The ground rumbled yet again as their Ki skyrocketed.
Gohan laughed. Of course that was Trunks' choice of attack – he taught him, after all!
Two enormous waves of Ki erupted from the Super Saiyans, emitting a blinding light that forced the entire audience to shield their eyes. The shockwaves of that emerged from the blasts' clash simulated a hurricane. Fortunately for them, Piccolo, Gohan, and Yamcha knew what was about to happen before the two warriors could even fire. Gohan grabbed Videl, and then joined Piccolo and Yamcha in standing in front of a section of the crowd and creating a protective forcefield, shielding them from the chaos.
Vegeta and Trunks unleashed one last surge of power, resulting in an outcome neither of them had seen coming. Both blasts overtook each other.
Seconds later, they hit their targets point-blank, triggering a pair of tremendous explosions.
The smoke faded moments later, and…
Both Vegeta and Trunks were left lying out of the ring.
Well, in this case, "ring" was more of a metaphysical concept. It was completely destroyed. In its place was a crater that seemed to run thousands of feet deep.
"Holy shit," Videl finally managed to squeak.
It hadn't even registered to the announcer that he was currently hanging in mid-air within Piccolo's grasp. The fight had been so explosive, all he could do was marvel.
What was this now, the third time they'd manage to destroy the ring?!
"Um…wow. This battle was so intense not even the ring could withstand it! But, well…what does that mean for the tournament?!"
The crowd was silent, filled with a mix of suspense and utter amazement over the fight they'd witnessed. For a few, it was a welcome return to the old days of the tournament. The fans had their focus on the announcer, wondering what the official ruling was going to be.
"Hey uh, mind bringing me back down below?" The announcer requested to Piccolo. The Namekian obliged, descending to the grass and allowing him to meet with two officials.
Before their discussion could lead anywhere, a certain afro wearing warrior suddenly leaped from the second story window of the tournament compound. Sure, he landed face-first, but his highly valued opinion had to be shared. As soon as he stood back up, he interrupted the huddle.
"I think it's pretty obvious to me, you guys! No ring, no tournament!" Mr. Satan hoarsely yelled.
"Yeah, that's certainly what it sounds like to me," one of the officials conceded. "But then, how will we declare who's the strongest under the heavens? That's the whole point of the tournament, after all!"
"How about we just rule it incomplete and hold the deciding fight at a later date?" the other official proposed. Mr. Satan felt his heart palpitate.
"Yeah, that makes sense. But first, we have to do the sudden death ordeal to decide a winner between Vegeta and Trunks," the announcer said.
Calling an audible, Mr. Satan simply snatched the microphone from the announcer's hands for the umpteenth time. "That won't be necessary, I got this!" The announcer protested, but Mr. Satan effortlessly shoved him away.
"Well, my amazing fans, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the tournament committee has entrusted me as the one to deliver it. Since the ring has been destroyed, we're afraid that the entire tournament has been declared a draw!"
The cascade of boos that erupted from the fans rivaled the explosion from Trunks and Vegeta's blasts. Fans pelted the remains of the ring with garbage, many shouting obscenities, and a certain blue-haired CEO offered some sign language that let committee know exactly what she thought of their decision.
"Yeah, I know, I know, but just try to bear with me, fans!" The champ dodged a can of soda aimed at his head. "As soon as the ring is rebuilt, there ain't just gonna be a rematch - there's gonna be a whole new tournament!"
Hey, Mr. Satan saved the world. Who had the audacity to try overruling him?
Many fans exchanged glances, essentially gauging each other's opinions of the ruling. It actually didn't sound like the worst thing in the world, especially if it meant more fights like what they'd just witnessed.
"Unbelievable," Videl grumbled.
Mr. Satan smiled for the first time in ages when a modicum of cheers emerged from the crowd. "So uh, fly home safely, and we hope to see you back soo-"
Mr. Satan's eyes bugged out like a slasher flick victim over the interruption. There stood Vegeta, limping his tattered, bloodied body towards him. Sure, he was reduced to a battered facsimile of his base form, but there was something about his jet-black eyes and ragged frame that sent shivers down Mr. Satan's spine.
Vegeta leaned in close enough to Mr. Satan that he was practically speaking into the microphone himself. "I have endured the displeasure of seeing your repugnant face for far too fucking long." Many parents in the crowd gasped and covered their children's ears.
"Ha, 'Geta said a bad word!" Goten laughed. Chi-Chi hastily squeezed his ears as well.
The Saiyan warrior's cold eyes bore into Mr. Satan's cowering eyes, and if that wasn't bad enough, he clutched his brown gi's collar with one arm and curled his other back. "The brat may have gotten his shot in, but so will I!"
The officials didn't dare try to pry Vegeta off of their meal ticket – he was far too terrifying. Fortunately, Trunks stepped in. He grabbed his father's hand before it could swing. "C'mon, dad, let him go. It's not that serious."
Vegeta irritably flexed his jaw while he took a few moments to mull his son's request. Then, he exhaled. "Fine."
But, a wicked smirk spread across his lips. He let Mr. Satan go, alright.
As in, tossed him down the bottomless pit where the ring used to be.
"Dammit, father!" Trunks groaned as he flew down the hole to retrieve the champion huckster. Vegeta knew he'd save the idiot, but that didn't stop his amusement one bit. The sounds of Mr. Satan's periled screams rang far better to his ears than the nonsense Earthlings liked to call music. As he headed to the tournament compound, he gave the officials and the announcer a look that spelled painful things should they try to take action against him. They complied.
The prince was back.
While Videl was relieved after Trunks emerged from the crater with her boorish father in his arms, the incident still humored her tremendously. It had been a few hours since, and now she stood beside Gohan as he and the rest of his crew stood anxiously by one of the doors in the tournament's medical facility.
After what felt like an eternity, Krillin emerged from the room looking like he'd been through a battle himself. His eyes were filled with joyous tears.
"It's done, guys! My daughter's here!"
Everyone rushed into the room to see, ignoring the "family only" pleas of the nurses. As if they weren't family, anyway. If Krillin looked like he had been in a fight, 18 resembled a war veteran. For a super-powered cyborg with eternal energy, she was still absolutely spent. The pain of delivering a child easily topped fighting a Super Saiyan.
Trunks couldn't stop himself from wincing uncomfortably as he watched Android 18's smile joyfully at the baby crying in her arms. He didn't think such a gracious look of warmth was even capable of coming from her. In his world, the only thing that could ever make her smile was the joy of ending a life, not creating one.
None of that mattered, though. In this era, even she could find happiness.
"Hey, she doesn't have a nose either!" Goten observed, drawing big laughs.
"So Krillin, what's her name?" Bulma asked.
"Marron." Krillin answered, not taking his eyes off of her.
Master Roshi ruffled his hands through Krillin's hair. "Guess you had to keep the ol' chestnut somehow!"
As the friends laughed among themselves, Trunks approached the bed as Android 18 rested. Though his face grew crimson, he had to get his words out. Trunks awkwardly cleared his throat…
Trunks averted his eyes, but 18 still smiled at him. "Thanks." Eighteen looked down at Marron and gestured her towards Trunks. "You wanna hold her?"
Trunks was taken aback by her question, but he didn't want to be rude. It was a friendly interaction with the woman that he could have never envisioned in his life. 18 leaned forward, and gingerly placed the tiny baby in Trunks' hand. She writhed around in Trunks grip, and even he couldn't stop himself from smiling. She was the perfect picture of purity.
Until she started crying and swung one of her tiny arms at Trunks' face, scratching his eye in the process.
"Oh, sorry!" Android 18 cringed, grabbing Marron out of Trunks' arms while the half-Saiyan shrieked and clutched his eye. Bulma and the others erupted with laughter.
"Don't worry, it's fine," Trunks murmured, rubbing his sore and teary eye. Surely, that was some sort of metaphor.
Gohan nodded approvingly as everyone crowded around the newly formed family. This is why I fight, he observed, the happiness surrounding him reinforcing what he needed to protect.
"She's so adorable," Videl gushed. Though she'd only just met this strange group, it was hard not to be touched by the sight of a newborn.
Upon hearing Videl speak, Gohan remembered something that had been bugging him. "Say, Videl, have you spoken to your dad since the Junior Division tournament?"
Videl heaved a resentful sigh. "He was shacked up in a hospital bed after you hit him, and I've been avoiding him since. Why?"
"Don't worry about it."
Gohan left the room for a drink of water, but Videl followed him into the hallway. Naturally, Gohan sensed her trailing behind him, so he turned around to face her. "What's up?"
Videl folded her arms and looked to the side, trying woefully to appear indifferent. "Where do you live?" she muttered.
"In the East District," Gohan replied, raising his eyebrow. "439 Mountain area to be exact."
"Whoa, that's pretty far isn't it?" Videl remarked. She shook her head. "Whatever. But I really just wanted to know…"
Videl averted her eyes and blushed deeply. Gohan tensed up, wondering what was causing her bashful disposition. She mumbled something inaudible, making Gohan lean in closer to get a better impression of her voice.
Finally, she blurted it out. "I want you to train me!" she confessed, pushing her fierce pride aside. Gohan sighed, relieved for whatever reason. "I want to learn more about this Ki stuff. I doubt my dad would know much about it and well…I think you have a knack for teaching."
"I'd be glad to, Videl," Gohan answered, a bright smile on his face. He nervously scratched the back of his wild hair. "Well, as long as my mom doesn't have a problem with it."
"Awesome!" Videl cheered. She planted one more light punch on Gohan's face and gave him a confident smile. "You better not hide anything from me, either!"
She stepped away and turned, preparing to walk away. "Well, it was nice meeting you Gohan! See you soon."
"Same to you, Videl," Gohan answered. He let his eyes linger on the haughty pig-tailed fighter as she walked away, thankful that it wouldn't be the last he would be seeing of her. It was high time he had a friend his age, after all.
Just moments later, Videl paused, cofounding Gohan. She restlessly tapped her foot on the floor as if she was mulling something over. Before Gohan could wonder what was on her mind, Videl spun around and marched to him, sporting his favorite sly smile.
She didn't give Gohan a chance to ask any questions before she grabbed the collar of his blue undershirt, yanked his head towards hers, and planted a kiss on his lips. Gohan would have shrieked had his mouth not been occupied. Of course, he didn't make an effort to fight it, either.
Seconds later, Videl shoved Gohan away from her and winked at him.
"Thanks for saving the world, too."
She gave him a thumbs up, spun on her heel, and sprinted away, an extra spring in her step.
Gohan's mouth just hung open. He couldn't move for several seconds. His eyes were wide enough to fit Videl's father's ego.
"Oh man, look at Gohan here, guys!"
Shit. As if his teenaged embarrassment couldn't have grown any worse, there was Yamcha endearingly wrapping his arm around his shoulder while Roshi, Bulma, Chi-Chi, and even Krillin surrounded him. "See, I knew you had it in ya!"
"I always said Gohan would be a lady-killer," Bulma teased.
Krillin's grin was the most annoying of them all, even as he held Marron. "Guess this is gonna be you in a few years, huh?!"
Gohan frowned while the adults laughed at his expense. Clearly, they were thinking way too far ahead about things for Gohan's taste.
Then again, it wasn't like he didn't enjoy the kiss.
Trunks had also seen the exchange, and while he was certainly happy for the relationship that Gohan appeared to be forming with Videl, what pleased him even more was his embrace of the teacher role. In his timeline, Gohan's guidance was invaluable to Trunks becoming the warrior he was now. That the Gohan of this timeline could find inner peace in the same manner was a wonderful thing.
The biggest thing the past three days made apparent was just how much his Gohan would have loved to see a world of smiling faces again. Where he could find a Trunks that may have been a little more brash and ill-mannered, but full of life and joy. A Bulma that wasn't bearing the weight of the world on her shoulders. A Chi-Chi that wasn't left to die alone. Or Gohan himself finding companionship…which reminded Trunks of one last thing:
Where had he heard Videl's name before?
"No fucking way!"
Trunks wiped red liquid from his eyes. It had been sprayed into his face by the woman sitting across from him.
"I swear, it's the truth."
"I wish I was!"
"So, what you're telling me, son…" Bulma began. It was the older version of his mother in his native timeline. She gawked at Trunks across the dining room table like he'd grown a second head. "…Is that Krillin and Android 18 got married and had a kid?!"
"It's too ridiculous for me to make up," Trunks snorted. It was nice to see somebody else besides himself absolutely flabbergasted by such a coupling. "I mean I thought it was a little weird that he broke the controller when we were trying to fight Cell, but I never figured that. He said something about her kissing him after she and 17 beat us up."
"Well, I guess I can't knock it," Bulma resolved. "Boy, you sure did a number on that timeline, huh?"
"Did I mention their daughter poked me in the eye?!"
Trunks was lucky Bulma wasn't still drinking or else she would have spat it on him again as she laughed. "Oh, man, I'm so sorry, son! One last 'fuck you' from Gero, huh?"
"You could certainly call it that," Trunks agreed. His mother was nothing if not deft with words, that was so sure.
"I've gotta say though, it's pretty neat that Gohan's got a girlfriend over in that timeline now, too," Bulma remarked. "He never did strike me as a ladies' man though."
"That was actually something I wanted to ask you about, though. I swear I've heard her name in this timeline before," Trunks noted. "Have you ever met a girl named Videl?"
Bulma gave it some thought, but the name didn't ring a bell. "Nope, can't say I have."
"Had Gohan at least mentioned any girls before?
Bulma chuckled. "Well, it's like I said. Gohan wasn't a ladies' man. Granted, he never talked about much other than the you or the Androids."
Trunks could certainly agree to that. His curiosity still bugged him, however, and much like his two parents, he was stubbornly dedicated to getting to the bottom of things. He glanced at the laptop that Bulma had set aside on the table.
"Hey, do you mind if borrow your computer?" Trunks asked.
Trunks reached across the table and pulled the laptop to himself. He had to admit, he felt somewhat like a stalker for going as far as he was, but he couldn't let the chance slip. He typed 'Videl' into a search engine. First, he needed to at least verify that a girl named Videl was even alive – in the broken era he lived, she very possibly wasn't.
To his luck, a few pages popped up. The top link was titled "Orange Star City Martial Arts Academy." That had to have been it.
He clicked the link and it led to a home page for a martial arts dojo set up for at-risk, abandoned, and orphaned youth, filled with pictures of children dressed both in street clothes and formal martial arts attire. Their joy shined through in every picture, all of them shown smiling, laughing, and playing amongst themselves.
Trunks clicked on an "About Us" link, which had a brief bio explaining the dojo's history, and there it was – a picture of Videl! She sported long hair as opposed to the youthful pigtails, but it was unmistakably her. She was listed as the founder and head instructor, and an address was listed at the bottom.
"Hey, I found her on here," Trunks said, turning the laptop screen to Bulma to show her the page.
"A martial arts dojo, huh?" Bulma observed. "Yeah, that sounds like something a girl competing in tournaments as a teenager would grow up doing."
Trunks nodded in agreement. "You think I should visit her?"
Bulma rolled her eyes. "Trunks, when have I ever told you not to give something a shot?"
The building was actually a modest house located in the suburbs of Orange Star City. Evidently, Videl operated the organization from her own home. What immediately struck Trunks' attention was the building's color scheme: orange and blue.
Trunks took a deep breath and rang the doorbell, tapping his fingers at his sides as he awaited an answer. He still felt silly for going out of his way to do something like this, visiting a girl just off a possibility that maybe he'd heard of her before.
After a few dozen seconds that felt like hours, the door knob twisted, relieving Trunks' anxiety. It slowly opened, revealing exactly who Trunks was looking for, clad in a blue shirt with word "FIGHT" stitched onto it with red letters.
"Hi, do I know you?"
Obviously, she was taller and more mature, but it was the same face and eyes that he'd seen in the past timeline. However, her eyes carried a forlorn weariness that was the complete opposite of her brash younger self.
Mimicking his master, Trunks scratched the back of his head. "Well, not exactly, but you're Videl, right? My name is Trunks."
Videl folded her arms and tilted her head, studiously narrowing her eyes at Trunks.
"Trunks. Purple hair…blue eyes…of course! I can finally see you for myself!" Trunks was taken aback…then again, considering who his mom was, there was a strong possibility that over the last three years she'd told enough people within earshot about his victory that word would spread.
"Oh, you're familiar with me," Trunks commented.
"You were Gohan's pupil, weren't, you?"
Trunk' brain performed a backflip. "So, you did know Gohan?!"
Videl laughed and pushed her door back, gesturing an invitation to Trunks. "How about you come on in? I think it'll be easier for you if we sat down and chat."
"Um, yeah, sure!" Trunks sputtered.
Videl led Trunks inside her home. Her living room was a simple set up, one that actually resembled the Son Family household's. It certainly wasn't the extravagant lifestyle that Trunks was certain her past-self enjoyed courtesy of her loudmouth father. Trunks' head spun as he looked around, urging his memory to tell him when and where he'd heard of her.
Videl sat down on her purple couch. "You're more than welcome to have a seat wherever you want!"
Trunks politely nodded and chose to sit in the chair adjacent to Videl's couch. "S-Sorry, it's just, my head's kinda spinning right now."
"Oh, believe me, you're not the only one. Gohan talked about you a lot but I thought I'd never be able to put a face to you," Videl replied. Unlike when she answered the door, her eyes were glowing. It was the same light that her past counterpart possessed whenever she talked to Gohan.
Sensing Trunks' mind, Videl continued. "Gohan and I were kind of an…item, I guess? Whatever it was, we were friends." Videl rested her head in her hands, looking ahead. "How long ago was it when we first met? Almost 20 years now, probably. I guess it's not important."
"That long ago, huh?" Trunks replied. He gripped the arm of his chair tightly. "Well, I'm sorry but…"
"You don't need to say it," Videl interrupted, her smile growing faint. "I know. Eventually, too much time had passed since the last time I saw him. I couldn't stay in denial."
Videl's somberly looked off into the distance while she dug through her memories. "He used to always show up with a new set of bruises. I'd cry and call him an idiot for fighting those monsters, and he'd tell me it was the only way. A much as I prayed every visit wouldn't be his last, I knew things would catch up. He put everybody's hope before himself."
"Definitely sounds like him…"
Videl laughed. "I was just a kid when the Androids first showed up. One day I was going to school, watching TV, doing other dumb kid things, next thing you know there's news of these killers rampaging through cities."
Trunks tersely nodded. Even after disposing of them, it was hard for the thoughts of their terror not to still infuriate him.
"My dad won some tournament and the glory went to his head. He thought he could fight those monsters, and well…" Videl wouldn't allow herself to finish her sentence, as Trunks pried his head away from her. "That's when Gohan first showed up. He…he couldn't save my father in time, but he rescued me. It was all so fast I didn't think he'd even remember my face, but a few days later he came to check on me. And he just kept showing up. Before I knew it, I fell in love with him."
Now Trunks was the one resting in his hands as he tried to jog his memory. For someone who seemed so important to Gohan, why was his only memory of her just a faint recollection of her name?
"Wait, I think I remember why I know your name now," Trunks mused. "I was training with Gohan once and he fell asleep. It seemed like he was having a nightmare. He kept writhing around on the ground and saying your name. I asked him about it but he told me stop worrying and made me do push-ups."
"What a dork," Videl snickered affectionately, drawing a laugh out of Trunks. "Yeah, Gohan was pretty shy; probably too scared to let anyone know he had a 'girlfriend,' if I could even call myself that. He liked keeping things private. I guess that's how he kept his sanity. He never mentioned anything about his family, where he lived…anything. The fact that I know about you is kind of a miracle."
"What did he say about me?" Trunks asked, coming off more child-like than he intended.
Videl didn't mind. "He adored you, Trunks. He always said you were the last beacon of hope for this world. And you were the one to finally get rid of them, weren't you?"
A small tear welled up in the corner of Videl's eye, even as she smiled. "I know he's proud of you, Trunks. That was the only thing he wanted. As long as he breathed, he put it on himself to do something about it. I feel so silly for always telling him he had a death wish."
"Don't worry about it," Trunks said. "I don't think it ever mattered to Gohan if he lived or died. He knew the fight didn't end through him alone."
"Amen to that."
Trunks looked around at the living room. It was filled with plaques, certifications, and photographs, which reminded Trunks of the other element to her home. "I see you run a dojo here, too. It's actually how I figured out where to find you."
"Yup, it's how I stay in shape," Videl joked with a prideful smile. "Gohan didn't have to keep looking out for me the way he did. I was all alone after my dad died, but there he was, finding shelter for me and giving me a reason to keep smiling. I was hiding in this very building the first time he sought me out. He saw himself in me – a kid who lost everything and just needed a shoulder to lean on. So, I promised myself I'd provide what he did for me to other kids. Fighting is my passion, and there are so many kids out there with nowhere to go, just like we were. Figured I ought to put them together and help where I could."
"Did you ever get Gohan to train you?" Trunks asked, facetiously.
"God, no," Videl chuckled. "The furthest I got was getting him to show me how to use Ki and I'm pretty sure that was only because I kissed him and left him braindead."
Trunks smirked. Sounded like the other timeline.
The doorbell went off, startling Trunks. He frowned apologetically and stood up. "I'm sorry. You run a business here and I probably came barging in while you were expecting company."
"Oh no, you're fine," Videl assured, dismissively waving her hand at the timid man. Gohan clearly rubbed off on him. "In fact, if it's who I think it is, you might want to stay."
"Hm?" As Videl waltzed to the door, Trunks wondered who she was referring to. Chi-Chi, maybe? It had been a while since he'd gotten in touch with her…
A small girl merrily stood in the doorway. She looked to be around six or seven, and favored Videl strongly albeit with spiky, disheveled hair and black eyes. Her smile filled Trunks with a feeling of familiarity.
"Home early, aren't we?" Videl asked.
The girl vigorously nodded. "Yeah, 'cuz I've gotten even faster running here!" The girl peeked past her mother's leg. "Who's the tall guy?"
Videl laughed and gestured towards Trunks. "His name's Trunks." She turned her full attention to him. "Trunks, meet my daughter, Pan."
Trunks nodded and politely waved. As most young kids were, Pan was somewhat shy in another adult like Trunks' presence, ducking her head and waving timidly at him. Videl ruffled her hair.
"She's my pride and joy, and…" Videl's lips formed into a somber smile.
"…Gohan's last gift to me."
Trunks' thoughts flat-lined.
"His…daughter…?" he hoarsely stammered.
Pan bashfully looked away while Videl nodded. "Yeah. I didn't find out until a few months after his final visit. I spent so much time worrying about how he'd react the next time he showed up."
Videl covered her mouth, trying to speak but choking behind sobs. The tears flowed freely from her eyes as she found it in herself to continue. "I was so scared…I didn't know if she'd ever see a world that wasn't a nightmare…I-I thought she could lose me, or even worse…!"
Videl wasn't the only overwhelmed by emotion. Trunks stood on shaky legs, trying to remain composed. But for all of the enemies he'd conquered, he couldn't ward off his tears. Videl stumbled over to him and clung her arms around his neck, sobbing into his shoulder.
"Thank you so much…!" she whimpered. "You saved his daughter. You saved everyone…! Gohan can live on because of you!"
Trunks couldn't glue his eyes away from the crimson-faced girl who stood across from him. The more he looked, the more he could nearly see Gohan himself looking back at him. It was all a whirlwind to his mind.
Gohan had a daughter.
Gohan and Goku had a legacy.
Videl backed away from Trunks and shook her head, embarrassed. "Sorry, it just all kinda piled on me at once. E-Excuse me for a sec."
Videl left the room and headed upstairs, leaving the two carriers of Gohan's name to engage in an awkward staring contest. Pan's expression carried a mix of awe and curiosity.
"You knew my dad, huh?" Pan asked, breaking the silence.
"Mom always gets worked up like that whenever she talks about him, so I don't ask her about him too much," Pan observed. "But he was strong, right?"
"Like you wouldn't believe," Trunks said, wiping off his eyes.
"Hey, stick your hand out. I want to see something," Pan gruffly instructed. She carried herself with the same stern attitude as her mother from across the space-time continuum.
Trunks did as she requested. The little girl marched to Trunks, cocked her fist back, and punched Trunks' palm as hard as she could. To her dismay, he didn't budge.
"Crap! Looks like I've got some work to do," Pan grumbled as she glared at her fist. Trunks laughed; seemed like she took after her grandfather quite a bit, too.
Moments later, Videl returned. Though her eyes were still red, she looked much more composed than she had been before she left. She carried a wooden picture frame in her hands.
"I thought you might want this, Trunks," Videl said, offering the frame to him. Trunks retrieved the picture, as Videl explained. "It's the only picture I ever took of Gohan."
It was Gohan indeed, about the same age as his counterpart in the timeline Trunks had just returned from. This version of Gohan carried an edge to him, however; there was the scar that brandished his face, and the heaviness in his eyes. He was perched atop a rock, resting his arm on one knee and staring off into the distance. He either somehow cared enough to actually strike a pose, or had no idea he was being photographed. Trunks bet on the latter.
It was the Gohan he admired and missed terribly. It was around the time the picture was taken that Trunks became more aware of the hellish world around him and championed Gohan as his idol.
He returned it to Videl, however. "Nah, I think you should keep it. Pan deserves to have a treasure of her dad. People like us who knew him when he was alive won't ever forget his face."
Videl nodded in understanding. "Yeah, you're right." She looked at the picture once more. "I still see his smile every day. He didn't show it too often, but I always found a way to get one out of him. He needed something to ease his pain."
"I've got a friend who can relate," Trunks cryptically muttered.
"Say, you don't have a job or anything that keeps you busy, right?" Videl asked.
"Nope. I help my mom organize the rebuilding efforts around different cities, but things have come so far that most of them don't really need me anymore. Why?"
"Well, I was wondering if you wanted to be an instructor here. You know a lot more about fighting than I do, and when these kids find out what you did, they'll probably listen to everything you say!" Videl offered, smiling brightly.
Trunks looked around the room, and settled his eyes back on Pan. He saw a child with a lot of potential, one who carried the same fire as the men who'd come before her. And then he looked at some of the pictures around the room – children who were smiling despite their rough upbringings. He nodded.
"Absolutely, Videl. That would be great!"
"Awesome! Thanks again, Trunks, for everything. Keep making Gohan proud!"
"Y'know, before his last fight with the Androids, Gohan knocked me out," Trunks said, surprising Videl. "I was mad at him about it for so many years. But when I see you two, and when I see how far everything's come along, I understand."
Videl firmly nodded and put her arm around Pan's shoulder.
"Well, I'll be off," Trunks said, heading for the door. "It was wonderful meeting you two! See you soon!"
"Same to you, Trunks!" Trunks waved, and Videl waved back.
"And next time, I'll knock you down for sure!" Pan promised, getting a laugh out of Trunks and Videl. Trunks gave her one last nod of regard and left.
Trunks shook his head in disbelief when he stepped outside, almost laughing at how things worked out. He looked to the sky, thinking about the past era. Time sure had a funny way of correcting itself.
Videl laughed as Pan sprinted to her room with extra inspiration fueling her stride. She looked at the photo of Gohan in her hands, remembering the moment she snapped it vividly.
Gohan snapped his head to the side, startled. The fifteen-year-old perpetrator laughed mischievously and set her phone down on one of the many rocks the two lounged in.
"Did you just take a picture of me?" Gohan asked.
"Well, it's not my fault you're so photogenic," Videl teased. Without even looking at him, she already knew he was rolling his eyes. He always seemed either oblivious or in denial of how handsome he actually was.
For once, Gohan came to her without an assortment of bandages or bruises. He was exhausted, sure, but mostly from dealing with a motor-mouthed little boy who idolized him. While he wasn't reeling from pain, he was pensive, and in a moment of quiet he stopped to gaze off into the distance, deep in thought. As was typical of her on occasion, Videl was mesmerized as she observed him. She liked him best when he was calm and relaxed, so she'd decided to whip out her phone and capture him, knowing in the back of her mind that she might not have gotten an opportunity to do it again.
Gohan shifted anxiously when Videl crawled closer to him. She tugged his blue undershirt to pull him closer to her, giggling at his shudders. For somebody who could fight killer machines without any regard for his life, Gohan found the silliest things to fear.
"Permission to kiss you, sir?" Videl joked. She took Gohan's silence and crooked smile as the answer she wanted. She leaned closer, resting her palm on Gohan's chin…
"…I thought you were here to train," a more relaxed, scar-free Gohan whined. Not that he could really complain, as Videl pulled away from him.
"Who says I can't kiss you and train?" Videl coyly asked.
Gohan shook his head, wondering why he thought it was good idea to have a "pupil" for a girlfriend, too. Then again, that didn't stop her from making great progress; she could fly as easily as walking now. That moment at the tournament where she overexerted herself just to float for two seconds felt like a lifetime ago.
He couldn't help but laugh – he made having a companion who couldn't take her hands off of him sound like a curse. Such were the perks of peace.
"Now check this out!" Videl shouted before recklessly jumping off the cliff they'd been sitting on, making Gohan leap to his feet. But just a few seconds later she soared all the way to the sky like a rocket. As Gohan watched Videl float triumphantly in the air, he felt a light breeze brush against his face. Odd, there hadn't been any windchill all day.
He could swear the cloud behind Videl was shaped like a familiar set of hair.
Thank you all for reading! And thanks Kagari for editing. Believe it or not, this whole story was intended to just be a one-shot, but I wound up going far deeper into the characters than I thought and had to stretch it to four chapters. It's been fun to write, but I can't imagine myself dedicating time to a long-runner these days :p