A/N Notes:

This is dedicated to the sisters of the world. The ones who watch their little brothers grow up, grow feathers, and then sprout military wings.

To my little bro. Good luck, I love you.

>-- >--

Standard Disclaimers apply.

Wild Blue Yonder

By Phoenix Cubed

A One Shot

The kitchen timer dings. The chicken is ready; a golden brown skin protecting tender white meat, hot and plump with juice after hours of careful roasting on the spit. Hints of sage and thyme curl upwards with the smell of the bird, spices to make even the toughest appetite get down on its knees and beg.

The rice was finished hours ago, along with the octopus, and the soybeans are in a container staying fresh. My boys will never lack the traditional foods except in quantity; fresh fish and vegetables don't keep well on a five hour walk from town back to the house. Really. Goku needed to use some of that tournament money to buy me a car. A nice shiny purple one, I think, with silver handles. That would do nicely. Then I could buy more than mounds of bread and frozen birds and those hard Western noodles.

Another timer sounds the alarm. The crepes are done. I shovel them off the baking sheet onto the wire cooling rack. Gray gravy leaks from the browning pastry folds, I can smell the mushrooms, and so can my boys.

"Crepes! Oh boy, Mom! Are they ready?"

Small yet slender fingers sneak around my skirt and the hem of my apron; before I can voice a warning, one hot pastry is burning the mouth of a careless ten year old.

"Gohan!" I scold, "watch yourself, they're still—"

"Oh! Oh! Hot! Mom! Hot!" My blonde baby boy hops skips and jumps in surprise, waving a hand in front of his mouth and sucking in cool air for all he's worth, all while refusing to drop the food. Instead he runs to the fridge, pulls the handle—if he yanks the door off one more time—and disappears behind the egg white door, yellow spikes of hair sticking up over the top, waving like a wheat field in a windstorm as he frantically searches for the milk. I hear guzzling noises.

"Young man, if you're drinking out of the container again, your bottom will be the next thing in my skillet! Gohan! Are you listening to me?"

"Ah, le 'im 'lone, Chee." I can see without looking that my other blonde is munching on his own pilfered crepe, just as hot. I don't have to turn around to know that there is gravy running down his chin, and that there's a bottle of cranberry juice in his hand to wash every last bit of the pastry. I don't want to look; I don't want to see him munching away without a care in the world and looking at me with sparkling green eyes that reflect my face instead of his thoughts.

I turn.

"And you, Goku, are the worst! Look at the manners you've taught our son! I hardly go into the refrigerator anymore because it's always empty! What's the point! Honestly! I'm living with garbage disposals!"

He takes in my angry face and laughs. He laughs! Oh, the nerve of this man! Even as I yell more I watch Goku carry out a familiar gesture that is his most treasured and successful defense. He brings a hand to the back of his head and scratches his white blonde hair while smiling at me apologetically with those green green eyes. My husband used to have black eyes. And black hair. So did my son. No amount of scrubbing I give either head will them back to normal.

"Sorry, Chi, but you know how it is. You just cook so well!"

"Yeah, Mom, you're the best!"

"Hmph." What else could I say? The more things change, the more they stay the same. "If I'm so great, then you two won't mind sitting down to eat, instead of sneaking food right and left—Gohan! What did I just say?"

There's laughter in the kitchen as my son scampers out of the reach of my spoon. I couldn't hit him if I tried. He wouldn't feel it even if I brought myself to hit him with all my might. My baby boy used to be scared of butterflies. Did you know that? The yellow ones made him scream and the blue ones would frighten him right out of his carry. He used to let me hold him for hours after the butterflies were all shoo'd away. Snuffling and whimpering like Godzilla had been chewing on his tail.

My little Gohan's almost as tall as me now. My back would be out for weeks if I tried to pick him up.

Goku swallows the last bit of his juice. He drinks out of the bottle because he breaks my glasses, and now all I have left are Gohan's tippy cups. Goku tosses the empty container into the sink, wipes his mouth with a dishtowel and glances at his replica in miniature. Maternal instincts sound off alarm bells in my head when Gohan nods in reply. His little face looks suddenly much too serious, too old, and too grown up.

Oh no. Not that, not yet, I'm not ready—You haven't even had a proper breakfast…

"Sorry Chi Chi." This man, this tall, strong man who moves mountains with his fingers and worlds with his fists approaches me. This stranger who I've known for years carefully uses his palms to cut off my escape and steady my back as he dips his head down and attacks. Soft lips touch my cheek, just catching the corner of my mouth. My fingers grasp the fabric of his shirt. His lips linger, but not for long.

"We'll be late," is all he says.

Like he's going to a business meeting. Like he'll be back for dinner.

He walks outside.

"Bye Mom." Gohan's little arms are around my waist; his ear and cheek rest against my stomach. He feels the organ clench and looks up at me; bright green eyes trying to assure me that everything will be all right. I can't help it. I worry. I wouldn't be his mother, if I didn't. Bulma is finally beginning to understand what it means to be a mother. She found a gray hair yesterday, she told me.

"Did you have a bath this morning?" I ask him like it's a normal day.

"Yes, Mom."

"And you brushed your teeth?" He's been preparing for this day for years.

"Yes Mom."

"And your hair?" Keeping him young five more minutes won't dissolve the Universe.


He lets go of me and steps back, his nose scrunched up and his eyebrows cocked in such a way that tells me he thinks he's too old for these questions. The first time he brushed his teeth by himself, when he was two years old, he ran up to me to show me just how well he'd done. There was toothpaste all over his mouth, on his face, in his hair, on the sink, the counters, the floor—

"Gohan! Let's get moving! We need to catch up to Piccolo!"

"Golly! I almost forgot!" Gohan's eyes light up and he turns, ready and eager to bound outside, into the air, and to Hell and Beyond.

He doesn't get two feet away from me. Whether I dragged him back or Gohan wanted one more hug doesn't matter. What does is that my little boy is off and running on his own life, and who am I but his mother to tell him to stay home where its safe and uneventful and impossible to really live his dream. But, but! My boy, my boy, oh my precious boy, how can you be so old so quickly? Wasn't it just yesterday we took walks with you in the pram down by the lake? It must have been. Oh, my boy.

I'm speaking out loud. I know this because Gohan is holding me the way I should be holding him, reassuring me the way I should be him. He hugs me with his strong little arms, "it'll be okay, Mom. Just you see."

He's gone, then, but only just outside the door talking with his father. They complete a last minute flight check while I stand in the kitchen gaping like the fish Goku used to bring home for supper. Supper. Food. They haven't eaten yet. I don't understand.

The chicken gets thrown into the basket on top of the bento box I placed in earlier with care and consideration. Hastily wrapped crepe leftovers, spaghetti containers, and yesterday's pork chops follow without pomp or circumstance. They need to eat. How else do Saiyans keep their strength up? How else can I talk to them, tell them, tell them how much I—

Goku has one foot in the air. "Wait!" I run out the door, lugging the basket of food. "Wait, you haven't had breakfast yet!"

"Mom, we're gonna be late!" Gohan's already floating, hovering, ready to fly away. Why am I the only one who can't fly? Why do they always want to leave me behind?

"But, won't you just take your breakfast? You'll need your strength…" There's panic in my voice, desperation for just one last minute to see them alive, unscarred, with no blood on their clothes, those senzu beans don't fool me for one minute—

And then Goku's there, one last time, a hand taking the basket from mine, another squeezing my shoulder as a whisper gently accosts my ear and I smell cream of mushroom and cranberry juice and sweat and aftershave as he asks, "how could we ever save the world without you?"

And I understand, but I don't. As every soldier does, he leaves because he loves you too much to stay behind. Both of them. All of them. I want to hate them for it. If love won't keep them home, by Kami let me hate them with all my heart.

"I love you!" I cry to the air, waving as they wave back. "Dinner's at six!"

They're both gone now, just little black mites in a clear blue sky, growing smaller and smaller. I know that they don't turn around, and if they did, I would be just as small to them, and the house and the yard would be only one of millions that they fly over everyday. I am one in a million, Goku has told me. And he means it. Because he knows that I am. I am one face in the millions and billions that he has died for, lived for, fought for. But I am also that one in that million that he comes home to. Or, he did, at least. He and Gohan have missed a lot of meals, lately.

The basket sits at my feet.

A stiff breeze blows the chimney smoke under my nose. It smells of sage and thyme and roasted chicken.