What Makes A Friend
Gohan wrapped his arms around himself and shivered for the millionth time that day. His entire body was full of annoying aches, his head felt like it weighed a million megatons and his eyes were heavy. The pain wouldn't be so bad if he didn't throw up every time he ate.
I wish my mommy was here…The child thought sullenly as he dragged himself to the stream and plunged his hands into the icy water for a drink. Sweat plastered his bangs to his brow, and not even splashing cool water on its burning surface gave relief. He spent a few moments scraping around on the muddy riverbank, trying to get comfortable by the water, but no position seemed to offer relief from the pain.
All of a sudden his stomach started to cramp. His eyes widened when
he didn't have a chance to move before his bowels violently and odiously
emptied themselves. Embarrassed even though he was alone, Gohan started
to cry. He peeled his clothes off, sat down in the icy water and started
to wash himself and his soiled garments.
High above Gohan's location, the green Namekseijin known as Piccolo watched his young student. For three days, he had been watching the child suffer through bouts of chills, vomiting and diarrhea. This was not his first accident, but it was the worst.
Poor kid is having it rough…I know how he feels. He turned his head a bit to shake off the memory, especially because it reminded him of how alone he was whenever he suffered illness. Well, I'll come back and check on him later.
Piccolo promptly flew away and was just about to perform his Split Form technique when lightning flashed. Raindrops bounced off the bridge of his nose and splashed across his raised eye ridges. He shrugged it off and spent a few hours training, only to be stopped in his tracks by a power level fluctuating.
Grr…! He growled to himself. His cape whipped lightly against his legs as his clone merged with him like two spheres of water joining in zero gravity. Damn that kid! OK…checking on him doesn't mean I care. I have to make sure he stays alive to fight the Saiyajins when they arrive. He is just my student…
Piccolo quickly turned as the rain began to pound down and flew in the direction of the flickering power. As he was flying he spotted a speck of orange sticking out from beneath a thick patch of mud and branches, a beaver's dam. He was pretty sure the boy was trying to wade across the stream when he collapsed.
More aware of Gohan's fluctuating power level than before, Piccolo landed with a soft splash in the babbling stream that came to his waist, ignoring the coldness seeping around his legs and crotch, and prodded the motionless boy. "C'mon Gohan, this isn't nap time. Get up!" He hissed coldly.
Gohan didn't move.
"Gohan! Wake -" He was stopped when his hand brushed the boy's soft skin. The water was freezing cold, but the peach flesh was as hot as an oven! "Gohan?" Great, just great. Now I have to wait on his ass until he gets well, or else he'll die.
Gohan stirred and mumbled deliriously, "M-mommy? Mommy…I'm cold…"
The Namekseijin sighed and picked his student up, "C'mon…let's get you
out of here."
Awakening slightly to the sound of a crackling campfire and a stick prodding at the wood, Gohan opened his eyes just enough to see and watched a lean green hand working a branch like a poker.
He was aware of something warm wrapped around his upper body and legs, though his rear end was left bare. Probably to make cleaning him up easier. He was also aware of being in a cave, sounds of the rain pounding the ground filtering in from outside. Occasional rumbles of thunder or flashes of lightning would interrupt the calmness like a hand disturbing placid water.
Before Gohan could ask where he was, the world blurred in a sea of stomach
cramps and fever, and he slipped back into unconsciousness.
Piccolo finished shifting the wood to increase the height of the fire and glanced over at Gohan, whom he had wrapped in his cape to keep him warm, knowing he had awakened for a few seconds. He hoped the child was too incoherent to remember this, but inwardly he found he was starting to like taking care of him. Even if all he did was watch from afar.
He reached over and pulled the large soiled leaf out from under the young boy's rear end and replaced it with a clean one, wrinkling his nose as he disintegrated the mess. It wouldn't be so bad if he would quit expelling his bowels like that…
Only after he had destroyed the mess did Piccolo notice how dry and cracked Gohan's lips were becoming. He had stopped producing sweat and he wasn't drooling like he normally would when he was asleep. This sudden lack of fluid alarmed the Namekseijin more than he thought.
"Not good…" Piccolo muttered to himself, "He's losing water fast…I have to slow his wastes down somehow…" He got an idea when his eyes fell upon a crescent-shaped shadow cast on a rock and rose to his feet. Within ten minutes, he was out in the pounding rain, heading towards the luscious fruit trees giving off exotic scents.
It wasn't long before Piccolo was back at the campsite with an armload of bananas and a ton of rainwater layering his body. Though the scent of the bananas disgusted him, he started to peel a handful and crushed them on a leaf until little more than mush remained. Rustling punctuated the silence as he slid over next to Gohan, placed a hand under his head to sit him up and gave him a little shake. For a moment or two, he found himself admiring the child's soft hair against his hand, then he shook his head and tossed the thought away like yesterday's garbage.
"C'mon, Gohan. Wake up."
When Gohan stirred, Piccolo scraped some of the paste off the leaf and brought his finger to the boy's lips. "Eat up, kid." He said with no emotion, glad nobody was there to see him pampering the kid the way he had planned NOT to do.
The small lips parted just enough for the banana paste to be scraped off on his bottom teeth. Piccolo felt his mouth fill with bile at the idea of sticking his finger into some snot-nosed kid's mouth, but it was either do that or let him die. …For some reason, the idea of this child dying just didn't feel right to him.
He watched Gohan's jaw work with agonizingly slow and mechanical movements. It seemed like forever before he swallowed and parted his lips for more. "Mommy…still hungry…" He murmured.
Being called 'mommy' only irked Piccolo more, but he continued "finger-feeding" Gohan until the leaf had been scraped clean. He was in the process of lying him down when he heard a gurgle, and seconds later, something smelling like bile, partially-digested bananas and stomach acid was running down the front of his shirt.
It was a good thing Piccolo's skin was already green. "Ugh…" He growled, yanking his shirt off and throwing it aside to be washed later. His exposed green upper body glistened as firelight created dancing patterns over his skin. "Kid…you're lucky you're sick and out of your mind…" He growled, reaching over with a clean leaf to wipe the mess of the boy's face.
Tch…I can't even stay mad at him when he pukes on my clothing. He shook his head violently to clear his thoughts, Just what is happening to me? What is it that makes me even want to care for this…this innocent child? The thought, especially the word 'innocent' made him pause in his tracks.
He finally decided to meditate on his thoughts, sure that Gohan was
comfortable for now. He watched his student for several moments before
allowing the stupor to settle over him.
Drifting above the haze of feverish sleep, Gohan dragged his eyes open and groaned softly. His dry, hot eyes shifted slowly until they were fixed on a blurry green shape floating in a sea of gray.
The pounding rain had stopped, but replacing it was the howl of the wind as the last half of a nasty storm blew itself out.
Uhhh…where am I?
The blurry green shape shifted and came closer. A cool hand laid itself across his fiery forehead, searing it with its wonderful chill. "Nope, sorry kid. Your mother ain't here right now. You'll see her soon, real soon, now go back to sleep and get yourself better." Replied a raspy baritone voice that reverberated endlessly in his head.
Gohan barely managed to focus his exhausted gaze on a sharply-featured,
angular green face framed by pointed ears before the heaviness of his eyelids
won over his will to keep them open.
Morning found Piccolo by the stream, washing his gi top while the sun beat down on his bare green back. Its warmth felt pretty good to him. It was definitely more inviting than the cruel, pounding rain that had been coming down the night before.
Although rain was annoying, it did cleanse everything. The air was fresh and moist and smelled of just about every flower, fruit and bit of moist earth that was nearby. Everything sparkled or shined with glittering water droplets that had yet to dry off.
When he finished washing his shirt, Piccolo draped it over a branch to dry and trudged towards the cave where Gohan was resting. He checked the large leaf he'd placed under the child's rear end and discovered there was only a small mess, much better than the entire loads he was passing before. A quick clean-up had Gohan comfortable again.
"This fever's breaking…finally." Piccolo said to himself after doing a quick temperature check with his palm to the boy's forehead. He lowered his eyes to Gohan's face and observed the young innocence that wore a few scars from the wilderness. It made him jealous to know that just about every other child alive had some innocence left to their name. He, on the other hand, was born with a black heart and he was soon going to be forced to taint the child's pureness with that blackness.
With a sigh the tall Namekseijin warrior used his pointed nails to slice an orange in half. He held it over Gohan's parted lips and dripped some of the juice between them. Most of it dripped off his chin, but some of it was swallowed. Not enough to hydrate him. But at least it was something.
"Stay put." Piccolo spoke hastily as he remembered something he used on himself to get rid of a nasty fever, and lowered Gohan to the ground. He quickly left the cave and headed out into the forest where he spent a period of ten minutes gathering a few leaves.
Gohan hadn't moved, not even to turn over, when Piccolo returned with a handful of Aloe Vera and eucalyptus leaves. Finding the eucalyptus was the most difficult task, but thanks to the rain their scent was easy to pick out.
Piccolo gathered the wood he hadn't used the night before and piled it up so he could start a fire. He hissed in dismay at Gohan's lack of movement, Look at him…such a little weakling! I don't see why I bother… His thoughts faded with the crackling warmth of the fire while he hung half a coconut shell over the warmth. He filled the makeshift bowl with water from his own flask and dropped in a few eucalyptus leaves, then mixed in a few drops of a lemon and a small piece of aloe vera.
The strong-smelling concoction started to boil within twenty minutes. It filled the silence with rhythmic bubbling noises and steam was soon rising above the bowl. Piccolo took one whiff of the liquid before taking it off the fire and laying it beside Gohan's slumbering shape.
"Wake up." He lifted the boy's head a little and positioned the bowl near his mouth.
"Don't want to…" Gohan moaned without opening his eyes.
Piccolo scowled down at him and pushed the coconut bowl against his mouth, "Drink this."
The little boy caught one whiff of the bubbling liquid and wrinkled his nose. He frowned, turning away with a small sniffle. "It smells yucky! I don't wanna throw up anymore!"
"This potion will help make it stop. I know it tastes bad, but drink it anyway." Piccolo continued glaring. When he saw Gohan's lips part he started pouring the liquid into it. Gohan didn't have any choice but to swallow and deal with the nasty shoe-polish taste.
"Eeeewwwww!" Gohan whined.
"Quiet, I'm sick of your whining." Piccolo proceeded to scrape the white
meat from inside the coconut with his sharp nails. He crushed it into paste
and smeared it on Gohan's forehead and chest. He added another log to the
campfire and backed off to wait.
The next morning, Piccolo slipped from his meditation and glanced over at little Gohan. His color was back to normal. The fever's flush had left him. Sweat layered his skin.
Finally, his fever broke. Now I can get the hell out of here. Piccolo smirked to himself as he materialized clean clothes on Gohan's body. It was a relief knowing the planet's last hope wasn't in danger anymore. And just a relief.
The Namekseijin snorted at his own thoughts. He slipped out of the cave and retrieved the shirt he left out to dry, then glanced back at where Gohan was sleeping. "Well, kid...it looks like you don't need my help anymore for awhile. Stay safe, little guy. I'll be keeping an eye on you."
With that, he left. It wasn't until he was miles away that he realized
he forgot his cape, but he didn't have the heart to go ripping it off the
poor child's body.
Gohan awoke to an empty cave. He noticed immediately that his fever was gone and he had new clothes. Though he didn't remember much of what happened over the past several days, he knew Piccolo must have taken care of him. Why else would the scary green man leave his cape here?
"Wait a minute, he's not scary at all!" Gohan smiled and pulled the
bulky shoulderpads over his head. They nearly swallowed his tiny form,
but he managed the weight well. "Wow, Mr. Piccolo might be getting cold
without his cape. I'll just take it to him!"
Two Piccolos dueled over the desert landscape like twin torpedoes trying to blow each other up. Both were pretty evenly matched and the battle was becoming a stalemate.
Piccolo dove to avoid a fireball thrown by his clone. Piccolo's clone dove forward and tackled the original. Piccolo kicked his clone off and stood up. He was just about to attack when something white caught his eye. He didn't think anything of it until a shrill voice echoed into his ears.
"Heeeeeeeeeeeeeey Mr. Piccolo! You forgot your caaaaaaaaaaape!"
"Huh? OOF!!!" Piccolo went flying as his clone's fist connected with his jaw. He tried to flip to his feet in mid air and missed, scraping his knee on the ground. "Grr.....stupid, the fight's over. Merge." Piccolo closed his eyes. His reluctant clone jumped over his back and melted from view just as Gohan appeared. He had to suppress a laugh at how comical the boy looked, all swallowed up in the generous white fabric.
Gohan skidded to a stop. Piccolo didn't look overly happy to see him.
"M-Mr. Piccolo," he wiggled out of the cape and pushed it towards his teacher, "You forgot this and I'm giving it back. I also - oh! Your knee!"
Piccolo looked down. His pant-leg was torn open and blood oozed from his scraped kneecap. "Ah, it's nothing."
Gohan's expression saddened a little, then brightened as he got an idea. "Wait for me, 'kay? I'll be right back!"
"Go - " but the child was already long gone. Damn, that kid could move fast when he wanted to. Piccolo leaned back against a conveniently placed rock and closed his eyes.
Ten minutes later, Gohan's loud footsteps signaled his approach. Piccolo peeked over and saw him carrying a leaf in one hand and a handful of greenish paste in the other.
"This'll fix you right up!" Gohan scraped some of the slimy paste onto Piccolo's wounded knee. Piccolo didn't acknowledge the intense stinging he felt. Instead he watched in fascination as the boy pressed a leaf over the wound. The paste held it in place. "There! I know it stings, but it has to be done. My daddy taught me that trick!" He grinned, "I'll let you train now. I just wanted to give you back your cape. Have fun, Mr. Piccolo!"
Gohan stopped and gulped. Was he about to get punished for bothering Piccolo? "Y-yes, Mr. Piccolo?"
Piccolo pointed to his tended wound, "Why did you...bother with this?"
To Piccolo's surprise, Gohan rubbed the back of his head and laughed. For a second his young face looked just like Goku's. "Because you're my friend! And friends look out for each other."
The green man turned his head to the side. He snorted, silently signaling the conversation was over.
Piccolo watched Gohan run off in a cloud of dust. He picked his cape up, donned it and glanced down at the leaf Gohan placed over the wound. A corner of his mouth quirked upwards. He called me 'friend'.
"Hey, Gohan!" Piccolo took to the air and flew until he could hover over Gohan's head.
Gohan looked up, cross-eyed. "Huh?"
Piccolo scowled at the boy's innocent expression. "I've been nothing but cruel to you. How could you call me your friend?"
That made Gohan smile and clasp his hands together, his tail wiggling behind him. "Because! Friends take care of each other, make each other laugh when one is sad, they give hugs when they don't feel good...and if someone has a really special friend, they'd even give everything up to make sure the other is safe."
"Enough, I didn't ask for a novel." Piccolo's voice came out gruff. "Anyway," he pointed to his knee, "I just wanted to say 'thanks'."
Then he flew off, vanishing behind a sheer cliff in the distance and
leaving Gohan a little confused.
Months later, when he felt Nappa's blast ripping into his flesh, Piccolo remembered the conversation about friendship. It echoed forever amidst his screams of pain and anguish.
"How could you call me your friend?"
"Because! ...and if someone has a really special friend, they'd even give everything up to make sure the other is safe."
Piccolo regained awareness and saw Gohan's face above him. He knew he didn't have long, he had to talk fast while he still had a voice. The first words out of his mouth surprised even him. "Gohan...you're the best friend I ever had..."
"Get 'em, Gohan..." Piccolo's eyes fluttered shut as the darkness engulfed him. He only had one thought before his consciousness was transferred to the Otherworld.
So this is what makes a friend...