Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Ball Z or any of the characters, I just borrowed them and played with them and now I'm putting them back.
The next day dad left.
I didn't mind, I had known he couldn't stay and it didn't hurt like it had last time. I had made my peace with him and myself. I looked over to where Goten watched from a top Piccolo's shoulders and smiled because this time I knew I wasn't alone.
As I watched Dad disappear with a smile and a wave I remembered what he had told me last night as we watched Goten sleep.
"You make a much better father than I ever did. I never meant to hurt you or anyone else, I guess I made a better fighter than a dad. Though it might not seem like much, I did the best I could with what I had."
He looked over at me and smiled and I nodded, finally understanding. That's all we really can do, try our hardest and pray to not mess up too bad.
I did the best I could with what I had.
What was my best? I looked over at Goten and felt that warm glow I had missed so much recently. His joy and happiness was my best. I knew there would be fear, I had defined myself for the past six years in terms of him and I was slowly going to have to change that definition. It was time I stopped letting my fear of being alone, dictate my life. For the first time in six years, the demons in my head were silent.
"Hey Goten, how about that flying lesson you asked for?"
I watched him concentrate, trying to gather his energy and felt proud. It didn't scare me so badly now to think of him growing up. He would never truly leave me, because I carried him inside my heart. Flying wasn't taking him away from me, it was bringing him closer. This was part of his heritage, a little piece of who we are and where we came from. A little piece of dad, a little piece of his strength; and watching Goten, I knew it was also a little piece of his joy as well.
Piccolo looked over at me and cocked his head. "So what made you change your mind?"
I grinned and flicked a small energy ball at him that he swatted away before it had a chance to singe his cape.
"I just realized I had you to mess with, old man."
He snorted and looked back towards Goten, who had his face scrunched up in frustration, I laughed and was walking over to help him when I heard Piccolo's soft reply.
"Just don't forget that kid."
It was Piccolo who taught me how to fly. He had always been there for me. He died, saving my life in that first battle against Vegeta. Piccolo says I brought him humanity, I know it hurt him to see me obviously struggling with my own inner demons. I know he wanted nothing more than to make everything better. And in a way he did. He had been my mentor, friend, uncle, father, and savior. In fact, he still was. He understood, probably better than anyone else how I felt about Goten.
I realized as Goten slowly lifted off the ground, that Piccolo had never left my side. All I had to do was call and he would have come. He was the force that put me back together when I didn't even know I was falling apart. I didn't have to fear not being strong enough, I had people like Piccolo that would support me whenever I needed the extra strength. I would never be alone, even when Goten went his own way, I wouldn't be alone.
"Look dad, I did it!"
Goten was flying, hesitantly and cautiously, but he was there.
"That's fantastic Goten! And I didn't even have to chuck you off a cliff or throw you at any mountains to do it." I looked over at Piccolo and grinned, and he just shook his head.
"It worked didn't it? You can fly can't you? What are you complaining for now?"
Goten laughed and faltered a little, turning towards me, he crashed into my arms and I pulled him close.
"That was a great first try Goten, do you want to go again?"
He nodded and I set him on the ground. He didn't take as long the second time to get off the ground and was more sure of himself in the air.
I suppose my greatest fear was that someday Goten would fall, and I wouldn't be there to catch him. I didn't ever want him to feel that he was alone, I didn't want him to ever find himself in the same position I had found myself in the day my parents died. I had been just like Goten at one point, and then the world just got to be a little to harsh and something broke inside me. With a little help from Piccolo and Goten I was mended, but I would never be the same person I had been. I didn't want that to happen to Goten, I would do anything to preserve his sunshine and bright soul.
"Look at me dad! Look Piccolo!"
He swooped around in circles laughing and made a grab for Piccolo's turban, but Piccolo dodged it and shook his fist.
"Hey don't you have any respect for your elders, brat? You watch it or I"ll blast you out of the sky."
Goten just laughed and made another grab for the turban. Piccolo growled and swatted him on the butt as he zipped past.
"Go pester your dad, you troublesome child."
"Hey dad, come fly with me! Can we go over the ocean?"
Goten settled his arms around my neck and perched on my back. I reached up and ruffled his hair and then took off into the air myself.
"You coming Piccolo?" I looked down at the tall Namek, but he just shook his head slightly and smiled.
"Maybe another time, kid. I have an errand I need to do."
Goten left me and flew over to where Piccolo was standing and hovered so he was level with his face.
"Are you coming back Piccolo?"
Piccolo looked surprised and then smiled a little smugly. "Why are you going to miss me?"
Goten cocked his head to the side and then threw his arms around Piccolo's neck. "Yeah, you're a lot of fun. Can you come back?"
Piccolo looked down at the boy in his arms in surprise and then smiled again.
"Sure, I'll come back. You'll see me again before you know it."
I couldn't help but grin at Piccolo. "Ah Piccolo, you getting soft in your old age?"
He scowled at me and threw several energy balls my way that I caught and juggled, smirking at him.
"Definitely getting soft."
We watched Piccolo fly off and then I grabbed Goten and tossed him up in the air. "Well go on then, let me see how fast you can fly." He laughed and took off and I followed behind.
The ocean reflected the blue of the sky back up at us and in that moment, with Goten laughing and trying to tackle me out of the air and into the water, I realized this was what he was born to do. Goten was a child of the sunshine and light. My time with him was all the more precious because it couldn't last forever. But I knew he would never entirely be gone. The rooms of our home sang with him, they told stories of his laughter and joy. And my heart and soul sang with the memories he had brought to me and I knew I would never be cold again.
"What day is tomorrow?"
"Do I have school tomorrow?"
I don't think I'll have any more trouble sleeping. I think the demons have all been slain. I won't ever be the child I was before I lost everything, but I'm ok with that. I'm a new person, a different person, maybe a little stronger even. And when Goten leaves, I'll be sad, but I'll be able to continue because I know he'll come back; and I'll be here waiting for him every time.
I thought I was lost, wandering alone in the dark and then I realized I had a light with me the entire time. It was inside me, and once I found it, I knew I would never lose it again. I'll be strong, but there will be times when I'll fall down. That's ok now, I can see the people around me who are there to pick me up. And when Goten falters, I'll be there to help put him together again, and we'll teach each other what it means to be brave.
What? The end? What the hell? I know, I know- I'm sorry. And I'm really sorry for turning into 'one of those' authors who doesn't update regularly even though THEY PROMISED. My bad. But...but...but...I had finals. And now I'm on break and I struggled and struggled and STRUGGLED, to write this thing. And I decided that this was where and how I was going to end it. I don't know I could have added more, I thought about it, but then it just would have gone on and on and on and on...and well you get the picture. And I want to move on and try some new things. I sincerely hope you all enjoyed this story. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed every single one of your responses, it never occurred to me that people would get so involved in this little plot of mine. It's been a blast, and you made my semester bearable. Thank you everyone for all of your support. Take care! -srusse87