Ch. 11: Sorrow

There were several fighters gathered in a loose semi-circle, watching as two fighters sparred each other. Or rather, they watched as one fighter effortlessly dodged the punches of the other. "You'd better mover faster, Voz!" One of the watchers cheered on the efforts of a slim green man as he fired fast punches towards a man in orange.

"You can do it, Voz!" The man also encouraged him, dancing backwards and blocking punches with his hands.

"Don't encourage me, Goku!" Voz snarled, dropping into a swivel kick. Goku jumped over it and gave Voz a grin which was quickly becoming one of Voz's least favorite expressions.

"If you say so," Goku grinned, and brought both of his hands together.

"NO!!!" Voz wasn't the only one who shouted a protest as Goku prepared for his finishing move.

"What?" Goku stopped, one hand going to the back of his head as he laughed at the onlookers.

Voz shook his head. "I'll beat you, eventually, Goku."

"You've got plenty of time," Goku shrugged. "I'm not going anywhere…"

Goku was walking away from the practice grounds when he felt a Ki presence that stopped him. Whoever it was, it was big. Turning, he scanned the yellowish sky until he saw a glint. "What is it?" Voz asked, coming to stand next to him.

"You mean who," Goku corrected, his expression tense.

"Fine," Voz retorted, staring at the speck. "WHO is it?"

"I'm not sure," Goku said, his voice tense. "But whoever it is, he's strong."

All of the fighters gathered around, watching as the speck grew larger until finally it was clearly visible. "It's Piccolo!" Goku exclaimed, his entire body relaxing.

"You know that guy?" Voz demanded, squinting at the Namek who was barreling towards them quickly.

"Yes! He's a friend."

Voz cast Goku a skeptical look. "He doesn't look very friendly."

Goku was grinning, his hand behind his head again. "Yeah, he has that effect on people!"

The Namekian warrior landed in front of them, his eyes fixed on Goku.

"Piccolo!" Goku started towards his friend, his arms stretched out in greeting.

Piccolo smiled, but it contained no humor. "I've wanted to do this for months," he said, one hand thrusting forward as he yelled his battle cry. Energy exploded from his palm.

"Wha..?!" Goku barely had time to say even that much before the energy beam hit him full in the face, sending him tumbling backwards. He rolled for several feet, the other fighters scattering out of the way with shouts of alarm.

Goku stopped rolling and flopped onto his back, stunned. After gasping for breath he sat up, char marks on his clothes and soot on his face. "What did you do that for?!"

Instead of answering, Piccolo drew back his arm and threw a second blast more powerful than the first at the Saiyan warrior. Goku blocked the energy blast with his crossed arms, but the force of it sent him rolling head over heels across the grounds and when he stopped this time, he was on his feet instantly.

"Are you crazy? Or just evil again?" He demanded his expression wary.

"Neither," Piccolo sighed. "And I'm also short on time, so as much as I'd like to continue this, I can't."

"What are you talking about?" Goku demanded, his voice confused, but he lowered his guard now that Piccolo didn't seem inclined to blast him again.

"I'm talking about Gohan." Piccolo strode forward angrily, his white cape billowing behind him. "Your son!!!" For a moment he stopped, then he shrugged. "What the hell…" With that enigmatic sentence he sent one more blast at Goku, but this time the Saiyan was prepared. He knocked it aside, the energy plowing into several of the onlookers who were gathered anxiously on the edge of the field. They shouted in alarm and dodged out of the way the best they could, leaving the stream of energy to level a small hill in the distance.

"What about my son?" The look of confusion was gone. Goku's face was determined, focused, and hard.

"You made a real mess of this one." Piccolo shook his head, arms crossed over his chest. "And I don't have long to explain it to you. Come with me." He turned and began flying back in the direction he had come. Wordlessly, Goku joined him. He stayed silent as Piccolo spoke, telling him about the months of degenerative behavior and the increasing helplessness and desperation of those who had to watch as Gohan systematically began to self-destruct.

"I don't understand," Goku finally spoke, as they neared Yemma's office. "Gohan didn't seem this upset at the time."

Piccolo gave him a disgusted look. "At the time, he was a little preoccupied. We'd just asked him to save the world, after all. We'd asked an eleven year old boy to save the world. YOU asked an eleven year old boy to save the world, your own son." He fell silent and Goku didn't speak for a long moment. "I'll never forgive you for that, Goku." Piccolo finally concluded. "And Gohan can't fogive himself for your death - your senseless needless death. He's already saved the world, why should he have to finish growing up now without a father? Why should he have to be father to Goten?"

"Goten?" Goku interrupted for the first time, his voice sharp.

"Yes, Goten. You have another son. Not that I expect you to care more about him than you do Gohan."

"Just a minute, Piccolo." Goku snapped backed angrily. "I love Gohan more than anything! He knows that!"

"Are you sure about that, Goku?" The Namek cast a sideways glare at his one-time enemy, his one-time friend. "Right now, he's convinced himself that you didn't accept the chance to be resurrected because you were too disappointed in him."

"What?!" Goku was so astounded that he stopped, forcing Piccolo to stop as well or leave him behind. "That's ridiculous! I told Gohan exactly how much I love him and how proud of him I was and still am!"

Piccolo snorted. "He must have forgotten, with all the funeral arrangements and all." Piccolo started flying again, leaving Goku no choice but to follow him or be left behind. The Saiyan's mind was clouded with doubt and regret. He could not imagine his happy determined child as angry and depressed as Piccolo described him, but he also knew that Piccolo would never lie to him about Gohan.

He flew faster, easily keeping up with Piccolo as the two of them flew towards the city in the distance that held the gateway from all the worlds to the after life. Piccolo ignored his demands to know what was happening, leaving Goku time to get lost in his memories.

Death had been surprisingly painful. He hadn't thought he'd really feel much of anything, but he had… for a split second anyway. One minute he was standing on King Kai's small planet, with Cell expanding beside him at a frightening rate. Then he'd found himself disoriented in a waiting room filled with souls on their way to judgment. Looking around wildly, Goku didn't see Cell… but he wasn't sure what that meant. He'd felt Cell explode… where was he if he wasn't here?

A few minutes later he had his answer. The door across the room slammed open and King Kai, sporting a halo and a scowl, ran in. The short god had propelled himself through the crowd like a boat on water, sending the waiting souls flying out of his way as he rushed towards Goku. "Goku!!! Hurry up! There's no time! You've got to hurry!"

"What's going on?" Goku demanded, still feeling a bit disoriented. "Where's Cell?"

"That's what I'm trying to tell you!" King Kai had answered, sounding frantic. "He's not dead. He's on earth… You blew up my planet and killed us all for nothing, you idiot!!"

"What?"

"He's fighting with Gohan, but it's not going well."

Goku felt ill for a second, then he shook himself. "Gohan can handle this. He's strong enough."

"Yeah?" King Kai demanded. "Did you bet your life on that? 'Cause you see how that turned out!"

"That's not fair!" Goku protested, but King Kai rounded on him, stopping their frantic dash in a field.

"Don't talk to me about fair! You blew up my home and killed me… now you make sure your son wins this battle!" He'd turned and Goku realized what he'd intended. Putting his hand on the short Kai's shoulder, he cast out his thoughts, following the god's lead, and then found himself firmly in Gohan's head.

"I can't win… I can't do this… We're all going to die… Just like dad… Daddy…"

For a second, Goku recoiled. The fear and grief and anger and hatred warring inside his little boy's heart had shocked him into silence.

"GOKU!!!" King Kai's voice had merged with a wordless wail of rage from Gohan to snap Goku out of his trance.

"Hey buddy… giving up? That's not the Gohan I know!"

"Dad? DAD?! Daddy!!! Where are you?"

"I'm here in the after life with King Kai."

"Daddy!"

"I'm fine, Gohan." Goku lied, pushing all thoughts of his own death out of his mind. "You need to concentrate."

"I can't beat him, dad. He's too strong!" Gohan's voice sounded desperate. Closing his eyes, Goku could see the battle taking place. It wasn't clear, the images were blurred, but he could see Gohan's arm and he staggered, almost losing his grip on King Kai's shoulder, and his tenuous contact with his son. Forcing himself to take a deep breath, Goku shook off the sick feeling that speared him at the sight of his son's mangled arm.

"You can beat him, Gohan. You're stronger than he is."

"I can't!"

"You can! Listen to me, son. You're strong enough. You can unlock the power in you…"

"I don't know how!" Gohan wailed, his body being shoved backwards by another blast from Cell. Goku could hear an echo of the monster's laugh through Gohan's thoughts and it stiffened his resolve.

"Fight him, Gohan! Fight him! Don't give up!"

"Dad…"

"You have to fight, Gohan! Fight for what you believe in! Fight for you mom! Fight for the good people on earth who don't deserve to die! Fight! Fight!! FIGHT!!!"

"Daddy… I'm so sorry…" The whispered thought struck Goku more painfully than his death had. Winded, he forced himself to hold onto King Kai's shoulder.

"It's not your fault, buddy. This isn't your fault."

"If I'd listened to you sooner…" A single sob made its way across the mental connection and it squeezed Goku's heart.

"Things happen for a reason, Gohan. Now you've got to concentrate. Focus on Cell. Don't let him get away with what he intends. Fight him."

"I'll try…"

"Good boy." Goku whispered out loud. "That's my brave Gohan. I'm with you, even if you can't see me. I'm here. Can't you feel me? Standing right behind you? You can do this!"

"KAAAAAAAA…." Gohan hadn't answered him, instead pulling his hand back in the first step of his final attack.

Goku nodded, willing his son his strength, even as he and King Kai heard Cell's scream of rage. "FOOL!!! I'll kill you all! This is over!!!"

"MEEEEEEEEEEEEE….." Gohan gathered his power slowly, bringing it into him, centering it as he had been taught. Even from the distance, Goku marveled at how strong Gohan had become. But he could feel it; a tiny shred of rage, a shred of hatred lingered in Gohan's soul, eating at him. Carefully, Goku covered that shred, pushing it aside until Gohan could deal with it.

"HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA…."

"You can do it, Gohan. Focus!!"

"MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…."

"DIE!!! DIE!!! You will all DIEEEE!" Cell's scream, demonic in its fervor, sent a chill through Goku, but he pushed it aside. He couldn't focus on anyone but Gohan, not if they were going to do this and win.

"HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" The scream that burst from Gohan's throat was lost in the roar of the power that exploded from his one good hand. The blast collided with Cell's, and everything was static, except for the sound of Gohan's heart beat. It was fast and erratic, but strong and determined. Goku focused on it. Gohan had a good heart, a strong heart, and he wouldn't let them down.

Not this time.

Blinking back tears, Goku let out a shaky breath as he followed Piccolo. Gohan hadn't let him down. Had he let his son down so badly that he was lost, even though he'd saved everyone else?