Biding Time (or Drive-by's)
Piccolo hovered over the tiny dwelling and surveyed the scene below him. He had come into the habit of bi-weekly visits here to check up on his rival, despite the fact that there appeared to be no point in the exercise. Four years since the 23rd Budokai and nothing really happened here with the exception of the monotony human beings tended to think of as life. A full year ago he began wondering if Goku even trained anymore as he'd yet to see any evidence of it. At first, before he'd begun to come around and see for himself, he'd been able to feel distant fluctuations of ki energy that alerted him to the fact that Goku had a routine of keeping his skills sharp, but they gradually became fewer and farther between. Before too long, they eventually disappeared altogether. Piccolo had taken up the practice of lurking around his rival's home, expecting that Goku had begun masking his ki while training. Thus far the evidence had revealed otherwise. He could only hope that he'd just never happened upon the place at the right time.
He allowed himself to glide downward, low enough in the sky that surely his rival would detect his ki at least slightly. The rhythmic low rumble he'd heard from a distance didn't even vary slightly. The baka appeared to be sleeping in.
Piccolo inhaled deeply and stilled his brewing irritation. For his entire life, two certainties burned constantly in the peripheral of his conscious mind. The first was that the world was his to conquer. The second, that he must defeat and destroy Son Goku utterly, had become nearly urgent. However, that same feeling of knowing that it must come to pass also told him to exercise the willpower to wait until the right time to set events in motion. Certainty said he had plenty of time.
He heard something stirring in the house and dropped into the shadows of the thick woods bordering the small clearing where the dwelling set, dropping his ki to nearly nothing. He did this even though the movement had not come from his rival, nor the woman sleeping, not much more quietly, beside him.
The now familiar shuffle of the child's light footsteps drifted to his ears. Though not one of the certainties Piccolo understood for the entirety of his life, he'd added the kid's near clockwork routine to them.
He prepared himself for the grating squeal of the kitchen chair dragging across the stone floor within, watching the window, sure of the fact that he'd see the kid's small dark head bob up as he reached for the cupboard. Instead the footsteps paused for longer than usual.
Then, as usual, the boy came into view, but no sound accompanied him. The appearance coincided with a furtive snap of ki energy. He saw the boy tentatively look back over his shoulder before reaching for the cupboard and retrieving a bowl from it, and then disappearing from view again.
Piccolo finally felt his rival's ki fluctuate in response, but it settled just as quickly, though the cacophony of snoring coming from the other side of the dwelling reduced considerably. This, and his surprise at what the child had just done distracted him enough to forget about the inevitable high pitched clinks of silverware hitting porcelain as the child ate breakfast. The sound caused him to wince. He reprimanded himself for doing so, even as he repressed a surge of excitement at this new development. Perhaps if the father proved unworthy of death by the Makankosappo, he would find use for it through the son.
Before he could dwell on it, a rustling and sudden cease of noise from the bedroom caught his attention. Then a soft voice projected in half a whisper.
"Goku-sa," the woman protested, not very convincingly, "Gohan is awake already, can't it wait…"
The reply came in the form of a murmured chuckle. "You could always tell him to take his breakfast outside."
"Goku! How could you suggest shooing our son out of the house…" Piccolo winced again as the woman raised her voice slightly to chide her husband. This was followed by a breathy gasp and immediate lowering of her voice he was momentarily thankful for. "Well, maybe we can just try to be really quiet…"
The woman sighed heavily.
Arrgh! Not likely quiet enough! Piccolo thought in annoyance. He forced back a wave of disappointment. Infuriating human women! He'd witnessed his rival's decline in three short years to this… this sloth that wasted the morning on sleep and senseless mating. An urge to just blast the whole place to rubble attempted to surface, but the given fact that he would eventually be responsible for Son Goku's demise prevented such reactionary haste from more than brushing at his consciousness.
And the boy looked interesting enough to wait for.
Certainty, however, was not enough to stop him from arrogantly speeding away from the place through the air under the power of his ki. He hardly felt a flicker, if any change in Goku's ki.
Feh, he swore inwardly, then put thoughts of his rival's laziness to rest for another day as it appeared giving the man any consideration at this point a waste of time spent better training.
Life is good, thought Goku as he stretched and rose from the bed. He looked wistfully back at his wife as she sprawled deliciously naked there, regarding him with eyes at half mast.
"Goku," she purred with half feigned grumpiness, "that was hardly fair."
"Well," he said contentedly, "Gohan might need tending to." He flashed a mischievous smile. "It would be irresponsible of us to stay shut up in here all day," he said, teasingly mimicking her 'I mean business' tone. "No?"
"I suppose," she said with a hint of dejection as she returned his grin and tossed a pillow at the back of his head.
He caught it in mid flight, not even turning around, and tossed it back to her.
Marriage had finally taught him what the big deal his old sensei and best friend made over women was all about. And he had his suspicions that what he'd discovered was far more fulfilling than anything between the glossy covers of a magazine.
Marriage also brought with it a downside, he thought furtively as he shrugged his gi on. That being Chi-Chi's aversion to his training, which had come more specifically with parenthood. He didn't yet understand why such a thing could be a 'bad influence' on his son, but he trusted she knew more about child rearing than he did. Besides, Kame Sennin had taught him plenty of ways to train beyond the traditional. He took every opportunity to do so under the guise of chores. Luck sometimes even granted him Gohan's company on necessary trips into the wilderness for food or firewood, allowing him to occasionally teach skills that didn't come out of the big heavy books Chi-Chi provided. Considering the quick rise he'd felt in Gohan's ki this morning, he had to believe some of those covert lessons were sticking.
He'd become positive of the need for those skills since detecting Piccolo's regulated visits for the past couple of years. The Demon King had yet to come closer to the house than the edge of the lawn, and Goku could feel that there was no outward challenge in these visits. He pulled his boots on and set his eyes on his wife again as she busied herself with getting what she considered presentable for the day. As he opened the bedroom door, he considered telling her about Piccolo, but not for the first time, changed his mind quickly. She was so happy. Why spoil it?
Piccolo clearly wasn't ready yet anyway. But I am, Goku thought. I must be ready always.
He arrived in the kitchen to find Gohan taking his dishes to the sink, the selection of cereal in the larder clearly decimated, but not disorganized. He wondered at how his three year old son always put everything neatly in its place without having to be told.
"Morning Daddy!" Gohan cried and jumped into Goku's arms as soon as he was finished at the sink
"Good morning," Goku replied as he ruffled Gohan's fine, dark hair and gave him a loving squeeze. "What's the plan for today then?"
"Swimming!" came the swift reply.
"Only if your studies are finished first," added Chi-Chi as she swept into the kitchen and began filling the tea kettle. Both her husband and son groaned in response. She turned away from the stove to look at them, lips pursed, ready to staunchly insist that schoolwork came before fun. Gohan beamed and reached for her, offering a polite 'good morning' as she lifted him out of Goku's arms. Her face broke into a smile despite herself.
"Mommy, the book I read yesterday about the philosophers said it is important to exercise your body like your mind, so if I go swimming, it'll be just like studying." He looked at her expectantly.
"I don't know about that," she replied thoughtfully. "Why don't I think about it while I fix your father's breakfast?" She set him down and went to shoo Goku out of the front of the open door of the refrigerator where he was guzzling milk out of the bottle. She had already decided that perhaps she should let them have a "boys' morning out." It was Saturday, and she had indulged herself with extra time in bed, after all.
"Hey, Daddy. Do you think there's such a thing as real monsters?"
"Well…" Goku nearly blurted out that, yes, the Demon King counted as a monster, but an image of his wife's face, contorted with disappointment and anger, materialized in his mind's eye. He held fast to his son's hand and tried to think up an 'acceptable' answer as they strolled towards the lake. They'd decided to walk since it wasn't very far, and Goku figured why not take what time he had to spend with his son. Time when Gohan didn't have his nose in a book, anyway. "What do those big books you read say?"
"But I want to know what you think, Daddy."
Goku figured that this was one of those important parenting moments Chi-Chi was always talking about, so he set his mind to concentrating on monsters. Presently, he recalled the first monster he'd met, the shape shifter Oolong. He stopped walking and knelt down so that he was eye to eye with Gohan. "Yes," he said in a steadfast tone, "there are things out in the world that are monsters, but sometimes they don't stay monsters forever. Sometimes they just need time and some help to figure out that they don't have to be monsters." Maybe even Piccolo just needed time. "Right now, you don't need to worry about them. I'll protect you." And one day, you'll do just fine protecting yourself.
Gohan looked at him in confusion. Goku worried for a moment that what he said maybe didn't make sense, but then his son's face practically lit up in comprehension and trust. "OK. I understand, Dad."
Goku smiled back. "The lake is just over the hill now. Wanna race?"