"For the Love of a Child"

Disclaimer: I definitely don't own Dragon Ball Z, or I wouldn't have just taken out another loan to pay for my last year of college.

Chapter 1

I stared at the computer screen in front of me not really seeing the words I'd typed, my mind had wandered away, deep inside my head to those dark places we all try to avoid. These past few weeks I felt as if there was a caged animal pacing inside me trying to break free. I didn't even find much comfort in my brother's bright smile. You know your bad off when not even a five year old's innocent joy in life can lift your spirits. I gave up on the computer and walked over to the window, staring out at the grey waves crashing around the rocks below. They reflected the heavy darkness of the sky. The corner of my mouth twitched as I almost smiled at the irony, my mood matching nature around me, what is the English term for that? Pathetic fallacy? Yeah, that's it, where the sky cries my tears. Snorting at this image I turned and slid down until I was slumped against the wall, head resting against the windowsill as I stared up at the ceiling.

I came to this place, so remote from everything around it, so completely different from the bright woods and meadows I'd grown up in, hoping to escape the demons left behind in that home. Stupid really, I should have known the demons were inside me, moving clear across the world wasn't going to vanquish them. I looked down at my hands and thought about everything I'd lost in my life. My childhood, my innocence, my father, my mother, and my compassion. I had turned away fromall thatand now stood facing the world through cold hard eyes, eyes that showed no reflection of my soul because I'd lost it so very long ago. Now the only warm spot left in this body of mine is for a small child. A child I'd held in my arms as we watched our mother die. I'd sworn to myself at that moment that I would protect him from all the suffering I'd gone through. He would never know the pain of having someone leave him, of having to grow up too fast, of fighting insurmountable obstacles. He'd grow up to be pure sunshine and joy.

I suppose I wanted him to be as happy as the man I refused to talk about, who's picture I'd showed him once and then threw away. Our father, a man who created joy just by being alive and who I hated so much for taking that joy with him when he died. The doctors said my mother died of complications in child-birth. I know the truth though, she died of a broken heart and left to go be with my father. Left me to raise Goten all by myself. I was only twelve at the time. I think that is when I lost the last of my faith in the world and people around me. I took Goten and left everything behind me, left our friends, home, all that reminded me of what I'd lost. I didn't want Goten to have to carry the burdens I'd carried my entire life, nor be haunted by the ghosts of those who'd left us behind.

So we came to this place on the ocean, I built this house and slowly started to make a place for myself and Goten. I took online courses, completing my education and getting several degrees. It hadn't been necessary for anyone to know I was only fifteen at the time, plus it gave me more time to spend with Goten. Since then I've made quite a name for myself as a writer of fiction, under a pseudonym obviously, and I've also become quite famous as a prominent child psychologist, also under an assumed name. Everybody thinks Dr. James Grant is a distinguished British gentleman. It doesn't really matter what they think, as long as I'm allowed to live my life in peace.

I've watched Goten grow and tried to balance education and training with the most important task of just being a little kid. Granted I didn't want him to grow up as stupid as our father had been. He may have been a brave man, a good man, hell most would say a great man, but damn if he wasn't thick. It probably wasn't pure stupidity, more like naivety, an innocence he never lost from childhood. But in this world we all have to grow up sometime, we can't all be the golden boy Goku. Funny, I used to be a bit of a golden boy myself. Amazing what the real world does to a person.

I'm not making the same mistake my mother made with me either. Push, push, nag, nag that woman practically heckled me into studying my life away. I'm surprised I remained as normal as I did. When I wasn't studying I was fighting, where was there time for me to be a little boy? I can count those brief moments on one hand, bright memories I carried with me through hours of mathematical equations and English grammar lessons.

No, I'm not going to make that mistake with Goten. By the time I was five I'd destroyed an evil villain, helped save my father and the planet from another evil villain, mastered the art of flying and energy attacks, and could do calculus equations that stumped college students. I think that's a little abnormal. I have a slightly more laid back approach with Goten. He can read, which I don't think is that advanced for his age, and it's not as if he's reading The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, he really loves Thomas the Tank Engine. And he can do basic math problems, I don't want him to be a total idiot. But mostly I let his education take him where he fancies. He loves nature and can name most of the animal and plant life in the area where we live. For the most part I just let him be a little five year old boy. Running around, getting dirty, driving me crazy at times with his questions about everything...he's a good kid.

My kid, I suppose. How can you raise someone and not have them be your child? He calls me Daddy. I told him about our mother and father, he knows I'm his brother but what's in a name? What is a dad? Someone who is there for you, who loves you, who wipes away the tears and kisses the scrapes. Someone who chases the monsters under the bed away and rubs your back at night. Brother, father, Gohan, Goten, it doesn't really matter. I'll be his Dad, I'll be the Dad that was never there for me, who pushed me into saving the world at the age of eleven, who pushed me to always try harder, give that little more, and who left me alone with a newborn baby at the age of twelve, left me when I really needed him the most. I've replaced that man; he chose to leave on his own free will, what right does anyone have to say that I can't and shouldn't fill his shoes?

I can hear Goten now, he's been outside playing but it's nearly dinner time. The room has become darker while I sit here thinking. The back door slams and I can hear him run down the hall. He bursts in carrying a frog cupped in his hands and skids to a stop in front of me a big grin on his face. The room feels a little warmer now, how can one person do that? I use to have that gift, but it died on a battlefield years ago. I shake my head to clear it of these thoughts and focus on Goten in front of me.

"What's up little man?" I reach out and pull him down into my lap, holding him close as thunder rumbles in the distance. He snuggles into me and carefully holds the frog up for my inspection.

"His name is Mr. Hoppers, he was under the steps."

"Mr. Hoppers huh? Do you think he'd like to live in the garden?" I ask, hoping this isn't going to be another plea to bring some wild animal into the house. Goten gently strokes the top of the frogs head while he thinks.

"Do you think he'd like the garden?"

"Oh I'm sure, it has all sorts of grass and things to hide in and it will be cool and damp for him as well." I study the head that is resting against my chest, I can tell he is thinking over my suggestion seriously by the wrinkle on his forehead. Finally he looks up and smiles at me.

"I think Mr. Hoppers would like that a lot. I'll go take him there right..." he's interrupted by the loud crack of the thunder directly over head, the storm has arrived quicker than I anticipated. Seeing the hesitation in his face, I stand, picking him up at the same time.

"Let's go take Mr. Hoppers to his new home together and then we'll come inside and make some dinner." He nodded in relief and we go outside to deliver 'Mr. Hoppers' to his new home before the rain beats us to it.

Later that night I was drying Goten off after his bath when he brought up the subject of school.

"Daddy? When can I go to school and play with other kids like Peter?" I stopped rubbing the towel in his hair and stared at him for a second trying to remember who Peter was. Oh yes, he'd been reading a story last night about a little boy's first day at school. I sighed and sat down on the edge of the tub, pulling Goten on my lap. I should have known this would come eventually.

"Well let's see, you have to be six to start the first grade, hmmm... and you'll be six in two, three years was it?" I looked down at Goten and tapped my chin in puzzlement. He giggled and shook his head.

"Daaaad! I'm five you know!" He bounced up and down in excitement and held up six fingers. "I'll be six really fast! October 12th!" He looked puzzled for a second.

"What month is it Daddy?" I laughed and set him down in front of me, resuming my rubbing of his hair with the towel.

"It's July."

"Right! Sooo..." he wrinkled up his face in thought, counting the months on his fingers. "July, August, Sep..Sept..."
"September," I supplied hiding my grin.

"Yeah September, and then October!" He finished with a shout and looked down at his fingers. "That's two months to go. Can I go to school in October?" His large eyes looked up at me pleading and I felt the hard edges inside me soften.

"Well squirt, school starts in September but I think I can manage to get you in even though you'll still have a month to go." I would miss having the little guy around but seeing the excitement on his face, I knew I'd made the right choice.

"Really Dad? Really?"

I nodded and he let out a yell, jumpingup and down pumping his fist in the air.

"I have to go tell Mr. Hoppers!" And he took off racing through the house without a stitch of clothing on. I laughed and chased after him with the towel.

"Come back you little streaker, we have to get your pajamas on!"


So this is my first installment. It started rather angsty, but I had a lot of fun with Goten and that cheered me up. I have more written, I will be updating regularly. I am always willing to make changes and LOVE suggestions and comments. Please review and let me know what you think!