Author's Note: This is my first fan fic, so any comments and advice would be greatly appreciated! This story takes place the night before the explosive battle with Cell, when Goku died again. I alternated between points of view (first Chichi, then Goku, followed by Chichi again, etc.) but it shouldn't be too confusing. There's a little bit of sex towards the end (Goten had to be conceived somehow!), but nothing graphic. So without any further ado, I present…

Hidden Shadows

By Crazy Retasu

I lie on my side, staring at the unblinking numbers of the clock on the nightstand—1:13. I can't sleep because my stomach is twisting with dread. I know I shouldn't worry. I should be used to it by now. After all, I can't remember a time when he wasn't fighting.

He rarely tells me anything—fighting is his private mistress—but I know he has beaten enemies more powerful than the gods.

My husband might even be the strongest man in the universe.

I shudder involuntarily, the memory of the virus that almost killed him still fresh on my mind. A simple virus, a microscopic organism that knocked the legendary Super Saiyan flat on his back! His recent brush with death makes me even more aware of his mortality. He could have—should have—died then, but a brave young man from the future changed history to give Goku-sa another chance at life. Trunks can never know how grateful I am for that. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if Goku had died thinking I didn't care. Sometimes I think I yell at him too much, but it seems like that's the only way to get him to notice I even exist.

Sigh. 1:15. The hours crawl by too slowly. If only the fight would be finished already…

I roll over and look at Goku-sa sprawled on his back, halfway beneath the covers. The faint light from the window casts ghostly shadows over the planes of his face. Sometimes years have passed without him in this bed beside me. He isn't the ideal husband I had hoped for as a girl. I know he loves me somewhere in his big heart, but the seduction of battle will always be stronger than any feelings he might have for me. Yet I can't help loving him, crazy as that may be.

I reach out to brush the spiky bangs away from his closed eyes, but I draw my hand back before I touch him. His hair is jet black now instead of the bright blond of the state he calls Super Saiyan. He's been training in Super Saiyan constantly, but I guess even the great Son Goku needs a break sometimes. He trains so hard. Gohan-chan does, too.

I might lose both of them tomorrow.

NO! I turn away from Goku-sa, shoving the horrifying thoughts out of my mind, as if even thinking about them will make them come true. I wrap the sheet tightly around me. They'll both return safely tomorrow. I'll cook a big victory dinner to celebrate—my boys will be hungry after all that exertion. Then Gohan-chan will get back to his studies, and Goku-sa will find a job, like he promised me. Once this Cell person is gone, the world will be peaceful again and there will be no need for either of them to fight anymore. No need for them to risk their lives again, no need for Gohan to lose more of his childhood, no need for Goku-sa to leave his wife a widow…for the second time.

I clutch the crumpled sheet tightly in my fists and bury my face in it, trying to hide the hot tears spilling from my eyes. A silent sob wracks my body. I'm so scared of losing Goku-sa again…and Gohan-chan means the world to me—oh Kami-sama, why can't I stop crying?!

I hear the rustle of the blankets as Goku stirs in his sleep. I hold my breath, praying that I didn't wake him up while secretly hoping that I did, to tell him how I feel before it's too late. But the room stays silent, dark shadows against the wall appearing like hideous monsters waiting to rip my loved ones away from me. I squeeze my eyes shut against a new upwelling of tears.

My eyes fly open and my heart stops as a warm hand gently squeezes my shoulder.

"Chichi?" he whispers. "Are you all right?"

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No answer.

I know she's awake because she's been restless all night. I can't sleep either. I keep thinking about Cell. This will be the first fight where I don't think I can win. I'm much weaker than the cyborg created from the DNA of both my friends and enemies. There's something wrong about the situation—like that monster is our fault. Cell didn't earn his monstrous power; he's strong because we are such strong warriors.

We failed in our responsibility to protect the Earth.

The battles will have to be Gohan's responsibility from now on. The boy is stronger than he knows—stronger than all of us. He's even stronger than Cell. At least I hope he is. Sometimes I'm amazed that he is my son. Our son—mine and Chichi's.

"Chichi?" I repeat softly and press down on her bare shoulder so she rolls onto her back. I can see tears on her face in the pale moonlight flooding through the bedroom window. I wonder why she's crying. She should be happy and proud that Gohan can take my place as the protector of Earth. But then she doesn't like me to talk about fighting.

She hurriedly rubs away the wetness on her cheeks, then meets my eyes reluctantly. "Goku-sa—" Her voice catches in her throat.

"What's wrong?" I ask, propping myself up on one elbow. I wipe away a threatening tear from the corner of her eye with my thumb. She opens her mouth but no words come out, so she closes it again. She stares at me with a pained expression on her face. Suddenly she flings her arms around my neck and sobs, "I don't want you to die!"

My eyes widen. Die? I don't want to die either. The first time wasn't very nice, although I did get to meet Kaio-sama. I can see him anytime I want to now, though, so that doesn't matter anymore. Death isn't so great. The food on Earth is better anyway. Or at least Chichi's cooking is.

"I won't die," I tell her simply. As long as Gohan can defeat Cell, nobody is going to die. If only we had more time to train…

"What if you die tomorrow?" She loosens her grip and looks directly into my eyes. For a moment I'm afraid she can see into the shadows that I try to hide inside myself—the feelings that I pretend aren't there. "I can tell you don't think you're strong enough to beat Cell," she continues. "You try to reassure everyone else that you can save them again, to give them hope. You trained as much as possible, hoping to reach a level where you might win, but you don't know if you even have a chance!"

I don't know what to say. I never thought she could figure me out so well.

"I don't want to be alone again," she adds in a shaky whisper.

My shadows gnaw at me. Guilt. I know I've left her alone too long. There was never anybody else who could do what needed to be done, though. At least that's what I tell myself. I had to train and fight, I had to overcome my limits, I had to grow stronger every time. I was the only one who could have protected the universe, and the good of the universe is more important than the happiness of a single person.

But…

You are the only one who could make me so happy. Those were the words Chichi told me the morning after our wedding night, when Gohan was conceived.

Gohan, my half-Saiyan son. It makes me feel like an old man when I think about how much he's grown up.

Gohan is strong, and can become even stronger. He will grow into the warrior who will protect the universe. It doesn't have to be only my responsibility anymore. I've neglected other responsibilities for too long. I can't fight both my guilt and Cell at the same time. One battle is hard enough. If I live through the battle with Cell, I'll have plenty of time to face the second battle.

"After tomorrow," I begin slowly, "things will be different. I'll be a better husband. I'll be here for you and for Gohan like I should have been before. I won't ever leave you alone again."

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I want to believe him. I want our life to be like he says. But I know he can't change his ways so suddenly. I can hardly see him in the shadowy half-light in our room. I touch the side of his face with my hand, wondering, thinking, and finally dismissing my dreams of how our marriage should have been. I want to make him swear to do what he just told me, but Goku-sa always keeps his promises—and this promise wouldn't make him happy. I might enjoy it for a while, but I know deep down he would still be wishing for another battle. Goku is never completely satisfied; he has to keep improving himself, keep seeking greater challenges. Even if he was home all the time, he wouldn't be any closer to me than before.

"Promise me you'll come back. Promise me Gohan-chan will be safe." That's all I can ask of him. That's all I really need: the reassurance that I won't lose both of them forever.

He hesitates.

Does he not want to come back? Does he want to die tomorrow? He can't do this to me!

"Promise me!" I cry, grabbing his shoulders. "Goku-sa!" Please, just give me this much! Oh Kami! Prove to me that he still cares for me a little!

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Her fear flows around my mind like a rising flood. She knows Saiyans have limited telepathic abilities, but she doesn't know how finely attuned I am to her sometimes. Her emotions intensify my own doubts and fear of the upcoming battle. The shadows rise up and threaten to drown me.

"I promise." Not just to her, but to myself. I promise that I will overcome my fears and come back home to the people I love. But I also vow to overcome my shadows, and do what I need to do.

Shadows of guilt. Of fear. Of doubt.

And shadows of love.

I hadn't realized that I pushed those feelings so far away. I don't need them to be happy. Maybe it's because of my Saiyan heritage that I find great satisfaction in the rush of battle. Each time I achieve a new level of physical and mental strength, I think that the joy is worth the price.

Yet now it seems I can't get any stronger, no matter how hard I push myself. I can't reach another form of Super Saiyan; I can't transform into anything more powerful.

Is it really worth the sacrifice of love?

Oh, Kami, so much guilt! All my life has been focused on getting stronger, and now I have nothing else left.

When she was younger, Chichi's life used to be focused on loving me (she waited since she was 12 for me to ask her to marry her!). Now what does she have left?

I've messed up both of our lives. Is it already too late for me to change that?

"I love you, Chichi," I tell her, for the first time in years.

I don't want to be a failure forever!

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He sweeps me up in his arms and presses his face into my undone hair. "I'm sorry," he whispers softly. "Can you forgive me?" He doesn't have to explain why he's apologizing. I know. My insides twist because I've never seen this emotional side of him before, this side so unlike the carefree warrior Son Goku. I should be glad that I revenged the hurt he's caused me, but I'm not. I never wanted to do this to him. I love him, and don't want him to suffer.

Awkwardly, I pull his head up and kiss him on the lips, a sign of forgiveness. Through half-lidded eyes, I can see the surprise on his face. We never show any intimacy in public, and it's been years since we even kissed. Too much time lost for fighting.

I pull away, running my fingers through his shock of raven hair. He stares at me intently, eyes slightly narrowed. I don't know what's going through his mind, but before I can worry about it, he kisses me again. His mouth is open and hot, and a low moan escapes my throat as our tongues melt together. He rolls onto his back, pulling me over with him so I rest on his chest. My hands roam over the firmly sculpted muscles of his shoulders and chest. I don't even know the feel of my husband's body anymore. Marriage is the closest of bonds, yet we're almost strangers to each other. I miss him, ironic as that sounds.

Our lips finally part after a breathless eternity. "Don't cry anymore, Chichi," he whispers. I smile sadly because I can see tears glistening in his own dark eyes.

"Ssh." I place a finger on his lips. "Don't talk." I just want to hold him and reassure myself that he is real and alive, and stop thinking about tomorrow. If I hide in his embrace, the future won't find me. Let him protect me for once…

A shiver runs through me as he gently nibbles the junction of my neck and shoulder. Slowly and uncertainly, we share soft touches, gentle kisses, trying to recapture something we haven't felt for such a long time.

I slide my nightgown off over my head, then kiss him with increasing urgency. He pulls his boxers down and kicks them off his feet, and we shyly explore naked bodies, vaguely familiar from better times in the past. Memories stir in my mind of our first night together. But the force of the present soon overwhelms me and I soar in a dizzy skyful of bliss. It's been too long since we made love—too long since we admitted we loved.

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I feel her everywhere, with my body and my mind. With the strange telepathy of my species, I lose myself in her thoughts. She has her own shadows, her own regrets, but she treasures the good memories, too. My restless soul finds some solitude in that. She loves me, even though I'm not the man she deserves, and that gives me hope. She'll be here no matter what happens, just as she has always been here before, even though I left her.

The effect she has on my body is a merciless punishment for abandoning her. The passion of our union is too powerful for me to hold in anymore. She clings to me as I explode into Super Saiyan, and a hot golden aura crackles over our skin. I can faintly hear her whimpers over the primal scream tearing itself out of me. A blinding flare of light illuminates the room, chasing the dark shadows out into the night and banishing our tears.

But then the light finally fades and I find myself back in my normal form. Chichi lies pressed against me, her body and mind still close to mine. "Don't go tomorrow," she whispers drowsily. I stroke her smooth back. The temptation to stay with her is strong, but I must face Cell, if only to witness the magnitude of power to be unleashed between him and Gohan. I start to give her my reply, but she is sleeping peacefully.

Even if both Gohan and I die tomorrow…she will not be alone. Part of me is with her now, quietly growing inside her, but she doesn't know it yet.

The guilt has fled for now. Maybe I can win both of my battles after all.

With a sigh, I close my eyes and step over the edge into sleep, smiling.