AN: My muse has weird hours. This sprang up at about six thirty AM on a Saturday morning, right after I'd gotten home from prom. Unfortunately for my muse, I was kind of dead on my feet at that point, so this has had to wait a little bit for my attention. It's kind of strange, but that's okay. I don't own DBZ, and I don't own any cars. My mommy and daddy own the little blue Ford Escort that I drive.

Stranger in the Storm

The thick rimmed glasses slid down on Gohan's nose, and he sighed as he pushed them back up into their correct position on his face. Then he resumed the task at hand: attempting to see where he was going. Squinting through the windshield of the car into a blinding blizzard at one o'clock in the morning wasn't exactly his idea of fun.

In the back seat, he could hear soft breathing. That's where Videl and baby Pan were curled up, protected from the cold by a few layers of blankets. Both of the women in Gohan's life were sound asleep, unaware of the problems he was having.

All this was over a stupid conference. It was for work, of course. He'd gotten a last minute call to go to some idiotic meeting in a city a couple hundred miles away. Translation: a three hour car trip with wife and kid in tow, as Videl had opted to accompany him on this little excursion. Not exactly something any sane person would be thrilled about, though Gohan was more dreading the excruciating drive than the opportunity to spend time with Videl.

Due to the nature of the people that were going to be at this meeting, they had opted to get there the old fashioned way—driving, rather than flying.

Unfortunately, they hadn't exactly counted on getting stuck in a blizzard.

He let out a heavy breath; a cloud billowed from his mouth and hung in the cold air for a brief moment before dissipating. It was getting colder, if such a thing was even remotely possible.

A hand touched his shoulder. He half turned to look at a sleepy Videl. "Are we almost there?" she asked with a yawn. Her eyelids were drooping even as she spoke.

He wavered for a second, then decided it would be best not to worry her. "I think so. It's okay. Go ahead and go back to sleep."

She didn't argue, but withdrew once again to the backseat. Moments later, the sound of deep, even breathing once again reached his ears, signaling that Videl had gone back to sleep.

Gohan returned his focus to the invisible road in front of him, and found that he was having no better luck now than he had been having five minutes ago. If anything, his visibility seemed to be getting worse, rather than better. Considering that Saiyan eyes were amazingly sharp, this was just short of impossible. Yet here he was, incapable of seeing even a foot beyond his windshield.

And, as had happened so many times before in his life, the nymphs of the perverse decided it would be a lot of fun to make a bad situation even worse. They had apparently had it in for him since the day he was born, so why stop now?

There was a banging sound from beneath the hood of the car. It was followed by the sound of sputtering, and finally, the car rolled to a stop. The headlights stayed on, but the engine had gone silent.

Gohan gripped the key and twisted it in the ignition. The engine sputtered again, but flatly refused to start. Another attempt proved equally fruitless.

The demi-Saiyan swallowed hard. He had heard stories about people freezing to death in cars before. People who had been in situations a lot like the one he was in now, and had not lived to tell the tale. Not that he was really concerned about himself. By definition, this was NOT the most difficult situation he had ever been in. His idea of a really difficult situation was most other people's idea of a horror movie and/or certain death. Something like being trapped on an exploding planet with the evil alien tyrant who had destroyed your father's race and killed one of your best friends…that was a difficult situation.

No, what Gohan was more concerned about was his family. Videl, a full human, not as able to endure the cold as he was, and Pan, a quarter Saiyan, merely an infant, and not at all resistant to the cold. They were far more likely than he to be affected by the punishing weather. He shivered inwardly at the thought of someone finding his wife and daughter frozen to death inside their little autmobile.

It was simple. He had to fix the car. But unfortunately, there was one tiny little problem. Namely, Gohan didn't know a thing about cars. Computers were one thing, but mechanics was an entirely different story. His studies as a child hadn't included such things, as they were not necessary for a scholar to know. So there really wasn't much he could do.

He made a quick decision, and reached into the backseat. "Videl? Videl, wake up," he gave her shoulder a gentle shake to wake her up.

Slowly, she stirred back to wakefulness, and blinked her blue eyes owlishly at him. "What? Did something happen? Is something wrong?"

"The car broke down," he said sheepishly, feeling a little embarassed at his own helplessness, "and I don't know what to do about it. I don't think I can fix it."

She smiled reassuringly, though the smile was tinged with exhaustion. She wasn't really awake at all. "Oh, don't worry honey. I know you can fix it. I have faith in you." With that, her words slurred off into something he couldn't quite understand, and she drifted back off to Dreamland with her tiny daughter tucked carefully in beside her.

Gohan frowned and turned back to look out the windshield. He tried the starter again. Still nothing. With a groan, he put his forehead on the steering wheel. This was not good. Not good at all.

Suddenly, his sharp ears picked up something. A sound, outside. A noise that wasn't a part of the storm. His head snapped up, and he peered out through the window, trying to see if there was anyone around. That was just what he needed, wasn't it—some weirdo out prowling around in a storm, tiptoeing closer and closer to the little car stranded on the highway.

The half-Saiyan bit his lip in vexation. He was just making himself more nervous. But he couldn't see anything through the windshield, and the side windows weren't any better.

Suddenly, the hood of the car popped up.

Gohan froze (pardon the pun) in surprise. What had happened? But then reason checked in, just as it always did for him. The wind had probably caught it and somehow forced it up. And now, if he didn't get out there and put it back down, the wind would probably tear it right off of the car. That was one way to make a bad situation even worse.

Gathering his coat around him and turning the collar up to protect his face from the punishing cold, he flung open his car door and stepped out into snow that was nearing knee deep. The wind immediately slapped his across the face, blowing snow and ice into his eyes, making sight nearly impossible. He stumbled through the snow around to the front of the car. Even with his vision as limited as it was, though, he could still make something out. A figure—a person—bending over the engine of his car. Gohan could barely hear the sounds of metal touching on metal, as though whoever was standing there was working on the engine. He could barely make out that the person was a full head shorter than he was, but even in the headlights, the person was shadow-hidden. Gohan stayed still, not sure of what to do.

After maybe thirty seconds, the figure reached up and pushed the hood closed. Then the person—Gohan couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman—turned. Gohan could feel that he was being looked at.

Any doubts as to the figure's gender went flying into the wind when he heard the voice. "Try your starter now," the deep, hard voice came from the figure. Gohan had never heard the voice before, so it was no one he knew. But for some reason, he felt impelled to trust the mysterious figure, whose face he couldn't even see through the blinding storm.

The demi-Saiyan obeyed, and clambored back into the car. Once inside, he took a second to brush the snow off of his jacket, realizing that if it melted, his coat would be wet, and it would be even more uncomfortable for him. Then he tried the starter.

Sure enough, the engine sputtered once, twice, then turned over and roared to life.

Gohan heaved a huge sigh of relief. Then, remembering, he opened the door again and got out with every intention of thanking his unknown benefactor, a shadowy figure in the snow.

But to his surprise, there was no one there. Even with the aid of the headlights, he couldn't see anyone or anything. And what was more, he realized with a start, he couldn't sense anyone nearby other than his family, asleep in the backseat. He bent down and looked at the ground, hoping to see from the footprints in the snow where the person had gone.

There were no footprints, save for his own.

Gohan's blood froze, and not from the storm. Suddenly, he felt very, very uneasy. Straightening up, he stumbled back to the car, got in, slammed the door shut, and locked it. A quick check proved that the other doors were all locked as well.

Without wasting another moment, Gohan put the car into drive, and resumed the drive down the highway. He drove for another hour. In that entire time, he saw no lights at all—not even a farmhouse.

Finally, just as the storm was subsiding, he pulled into a diner, one that was open twenty four hours a day, parked the car, and shut off the engine. Then he simply sat there, staring straight ahead, not quite sure of what to think.

"Gohan?" a sleepy voice said his name.

"Yes?" he said, fighting to keep his voice casual.

"Where are we?" Videl asked, leaning over the passenger seat.

"A diner. I want to wait until the storm clears before we go any further."

"See? I knew you could fix the car," she smiled, seeming a little more awake than before. "You've always been good at coming through in a crisis. I told you so, didn't I?"

Gohan smiled, and Gohan nodded, but Gohan didn't say anything.

After all, what could he say?

AN: Ah, I finally finished it! Hooray!!! Me hope you likey. Me hope you review, but me no beg for you to review. Me hope you come by again to read more of me stories! Bye!