Still Here

Disclaimers: Ho Hum. How should I put this? Dbz, how shall I own thee? Never! Never! Never! Verbal Tear Poetic enough for you?

I was inspired to write again thanks to an amazing dragon ball z story called By Any Other Name written by Deanine. I highly recommend it. It's considerably darker than Still Here- but it's still brilliant and wonderfully executed.

My other inspiration was the latest song by Linkin Park, What I've Done. It fit very well with my current idea of Still Here, I couldn't help but want to write more.

Last chapter's title was Spanish for flight. I wonder where I was going with these weird foreign named chapters. :insert shrug: I had an idea back when I first wrote it. But I suppose my plans have changed since then.

German title this time, for those who still care to guess.

"But that's not fair!"
"No! No- Not you! Not you too!"
"This is all your fault!"
"If you cry, it will make me cry too."
His hair never moved at all, did it?
"Because, despite whatever illusion you see me as, I… do not… exist!!!"
"It doesn't have to be today or tomorrow. I don't even care if it's a bazillion years from now… But I would like to know you, Ghost… The real you- someday."
"I got you, Goten!"
"Dying twice. Sure you won't go away this time?"
"I don't think I'm meant to."

Chapter Nine: Beklagen Sie

"The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone."
-Harriet Beecher Stowe

Vegeta lay the body like it were broken glass, willing to slice him open at any moment, onto the pyre he made of the driest wood he could find. His hands were shaking as he struggled to find it in himself to destroy the host body. By cremating this regenerated body he would probably make it physically impossible for Gohan to ever come back again. Could Vegeta truly accept the consequences of that?

Gohan was burned once. Goten had somehow regenerated him. So what was once more?

One spark of chi ignited before he could have any second thoughts. And once more the demi sayian, the son of his greatest rival- nay, his greatest rival… Gohan went up in flames.

"There you go, Gohan," said Vegeta to the flames. "The wind will probably scatter your ashes all down the mountain side. You won't return again."

If he were expecting an answer, he didn't wait around for one. Instead he drew back and watched the flames from a distance. He didn't dare look directly into them and instead reflected on the flickering shadows.

Goten had resurrected Gohan. The very thought sent chills down his spine. That young boy was dangerous. He had a power even more alien than sayian power.

No, not power. Magic, Vegeta corrected in his mind. The boy had the magic of Shenron, the eternal dragon, who could just as easily resurrect life as snuff it out.

It was a terrible realization.

Just what was Goten in that sense?

And what was Gohan? His spirit was unlike any other Vegeta had previously encountered in his brief death back on Namek. The boy had no halo over his head and no sweep of spiritual essence in his form, seen only to eyes of children and to the concentrated senses of adults. Vegeta had to work hard to notice Gohan hanging around.

Ever since Goten was born, he'd had the sinking feeling that he was being followed by unseen eyes. The faint taint of a chi, like a brief touch of something sour to his taste buds, constantly evaded him. It wasn't until Goten's birthday party that he saw the spirit at last. After that, as long as he was fully aware, Vegeta could catch glimpses in his mind's eye.

But Gohan wasn't a spirit. No. He wasn't anything close to a spirit. He was a ghost.

Had Gohan been grounded and bound to the mysterious allure of his brother? Had that in fact changed what Gohan was too? Or did suicides physically transform spirits into something else? He didn't know. He hadn't ever done so- his pride was too hard to break. But his mother. His mother had committed suicide. So was she wandering around aimlessly like Gohan had, slowly sinking into the own loss of their mind and memories?

Vegeta sucked in a low breath between his rather unwilling lips and let it out explosively. He wished he could expel such weak and impressionable thoughts from his mind. He was becoming ever more human with each day. It was an infection. It seeped into him through the sensuous touches from his mate, the playful giggle of his son's voice, and in his constant apprehension for what was left of his dead race. Why did he continually give a damn?

He tried to wall himself beyond this. But in the quiet behind his eyelids all he could see was Gohan excruciatingly slow and labored breath pushing between his lips a bloodless farewell. Those eyes he had all but forgotten slowly dimming and remaining lidlessly immortal in death.

Quite beyond his consent, Vegeta reached out a hand to let fall the lids once more. His hands touched nothing but air. The start woke him once more from his daydream.

The fire had died down. All traces of Gohan had melted in to deep black ashes. He mustered a handful uncertainly. With the ashes at arms length he approached the cliff's edge. His feet tethered with balance only rivaled by a boy who didn't care if he lived or die.

Vegeta let the ash sift through his fingers like sand. Like sand in an hourglass.

"You'll return," he said to his soiled hands. "I expect you to."

Consciousness came back in an instant that could be covered by a simple snap of the fingers. His breath shot up from his chest and out of his mouth in one painful gasp. He felt a familiar retching and heaving… and the utter exhaustion that crept like a shadow in the corner of his mind. At first, Goten couldn't remember what had happened.

He swallowed his insides bitterly and remembered. There was no Ghost at his side nor leafy green forest floor as his bed. His clothes were changed and he lay quietly on his clean sheets- in his bedroom.

His skin still stuck with the stench of the wilderness. Crusty mud hung to his arms and legs. His hair was filthy. So it had happened. But how did he get back here? And where was…

Goten sat up. His room was empty. He leapt down onto his bare feet and winced at the sparks of pain that shot up through his limbs. Gritting his teeth, he limped his way out into the hallway.

The hallway was empty too.

Pain ebbing away into panic, Goten rushed into the living room. Not here either. The kitchen was empty as well. Goten rushed to the screen door just as Chichi made her way out of the bedroom.

"Goten, sweetie?"

"I'll be right back, Mom!"

"Make sure you're not out too long. I'm gonna start breakfast."

"Okay!" Goten shouted back, letting the screen door slam shut behind him. Chichi watched him go with mild curiosity.

"He certainly seems more active today. To think he didn't even react to the mention of food."

Goten was up the hill much faster than the night before. Mud sucked up to his ankles. Hidden sticks and burrs cut into his already pained feet. And still nothing.

Ghost was gone. Ghost was dead.

Goten hit his knees. He tried not to cry but the emotion overwhelmed him. He felt like he was going to be sick all over the grass. His heart raced and the tears blinded him. He couldn't even manage the breath to properly scream.

His fingers sunk into the thick mud. Goten sunk too, lowering his head onto his hands. He grieved without sound.

He hated himself for every heavy sob. He should have been happy- Ghost was finally in heaven where he belonged. How horrible it must have been to live here, always just watching. He should have been happy, but Goten couldn't manage to be happy. All he could feel was that he'd never see Ghost again. And that selfish desire ripped him up inside.

Goten tensed when he felt someone watching him. He was afraid to look, just in case he was wrong.

Finally he lifted his heavy head, and saw. Tears still fell from his eyes, but his voice returned to him.

He said nothing coherently. But it didn't matter. Ghost understood. Ghost understood the half strangled, gut-wrenching sob from his little brother as the boy sloppily threw himself on top of him.

Muddy arms wrapped around his imaginary waist, Ghost weakly rubbed Goten's back. With fake fingers- fake palms.

Ghost sank to his knees, and pulled his brother fully into his embrace. He held onto the only thing left he had.

Goten started to laugh. It was weak at first but the laugh grew in strength. Goten squeezed Gohan tighter and laughed harder and happier than Ghost had ever heard him laugh. It was out of relief and out of pure joy. He still had his Ghost. He was here. He wasn't going to leave.

Ghost couldn't help but join in. After all, he didn't quite remember what he had forgotten. Being here was all he knew.

Ghost hefted the boy up and swung him around for good measure. Goten only laughed harder. It was the best sound in the world. Ghost felt it fill him and allowed himself to be happy too.

They were still together- and they weren't ever going to let anything tear them apart. Immortal, and completely unsevered by death- that's what they were.

"I thought you left," Goten breathed.

"Where would I go?"

"Why to heaven, silly. Isn't that where everyone goes?"

Ghost looked nonplussed for a moment. "No. Not everyone."

"Where do the others go?"

"I don't remember," Ghost smiled. "But it doesn't matter. Because I'm supposed to stay with you. Remember? We made a promise."

And Goten hugged him again happily in response. There were no words needed.

Goten broke away from Ghost at the sense of an approaching entity. Ghost sensed him while Goten could see him wavering uncertainly in the sky.

Goten only just made it out to greet the young boy as he touched down and collapsed into Goten's arms.

"Trunks! Hey, are you alright?" said Goten shaking his friend gently.

Trunks smiled, drenched in sweat, and managed to nod. He was still breathing heavily, trying to catch his breath somehow. Unable to speak, he pulled Goten into an awkward one armed hug.

"S-sorry," he gasped hoarsely. "I- I'm n-oot mad…"

"Good gawd, Trunks," said Ghost with certain astonishment, eyes cast skyward at the horizon. "Did you fly all the way here?"

"M-my dad sa-said you were mad at me… c-cause I was mad… and I-I wanted to let you know… I'm not mad." He smiled breathlessly.

"I wasn't mad, Trunks. I'm just glad you weren't mad!" Goten exclaimed hugging the boy perhaps a bit too tightly.

Both boys tumbled backwards into the grass laughing. Goten rolled off Trunks and lay on his back beside his friend. He playfully held his nose with his index and thumb saying, "Gah. You smell like sweat."

"What do you expect? Flying isn't easy, you know?"

Trunks sat up and cast a weary glance around them. "That reminds me," he said. "I should apologize to Ghost too."

Goten sat up suddenly at that. Ghost was directly at his side, looking just as taken aback.

Trunks turned to Goten and smiled. "So where is he?"

Ghost inhaled sharply but only Goten heard it.

"Goten, hey," began Trunks. "Why are you crying? Goten?"

To Be Continued…
Please R + R!

I had to upload the chapter in a special way, lj user mercuryblue144 for the tip. The site was giving me several problems in the document manager. But I got it working now.

Considerably shorter than my typical update. I apologize for that. I had a different plan for this chapter, but it didn't quite work out the way I wanted it to. The change of plans made it smaller.

The next chapter will be the changing point. After that- it all goes to hell. Enjoy:insert evil laughter:

I'd like to thank all those have reviewed thus far: bluedranzer77, link2143, Twin Tails Speed, supersaiyaman, Purple-Fairy93, lpgohanfanatic, Lina-chan13, Skadu, , and -0-HA-0-. I appreciate every and all feedback I receive. Thanks to you who are still hanging around and waiting for me to finish. I promise I will someday. It just might take me some time. I haven't even gotten to the big turning point yet- but that's next chapter after all.

If you've read, please review. I'd love to hear what you thought.