This has been in my head for over a year, and I finally wrote it down. Continuity is just after the end of the final episode. In some fit of insanity, I decided to share it. I am reasonably sure that this is my first and last fanfic in this universe. The song "Good Friend" by Nine Days inspired it.

Disclaimer: I do not own DBZ.


He Wasn't

She didn't cry when he did it. Because he was smiling that smile, the one that was so magnanimous you had to capitalize it, italicize it, drown everything in it. A serial killer could wear that smile and nobody would ever raise a word of protest. And Goku really had killed her in a way, now hadn't he, and just like always…she let him.

Later, much later after the Budokai was long over and she had kissed Gohan goodbye, after Goten went quietly into his room to talk to Trunks on the phone for hours because he had just realized that his father was never coming back…later, she cried. She lay on Goku's side of the bed and told herself what an idiot she was, what a complete fool she had allowed herself to become for some fantasy. For all intents and purposes, such self absorbed, indulgent behavior was to be avoided…but she would allow herself this. This one moment where she could pity herself.

It wasn't even a good kind of crying; not the kind that left you feeling pure and washed out and whole again, baptized in burning-hot, raw pain. This was cold crying: shameful and slow and aching for something, something different that you couldn't touch, couldn't name.

Some weeks later—Or was it months? It was all the same.—he called and she knew it was him before she got halfway to the phone. Hand hovering over the receiver in childish, schoolgirl anticipation, she wondered what to do for a millisecond infinity. If she picked it up immediately, would he think she had been waiting by the phone, waiting for him…

No, stupid. Goku wouldn't understand that. If she believed for an instant that he would, she obviously had forgotten him already. The thought was both a blessing and an unspeakable terror.

"Hello." Her voice didn't sound like her own.

When he finally spoke, it was as close to hesitant as she had ever heard Goku speak—or would ever hear again. In fact, it was one of the last times in her life that she would ever hear Goku speak. "Hey. Knew it was me, didn't ya?" There was humor, because there was always humor, but it was flat, distorted…guilty.

"Why did you call me, Goku?"

Nervous laughter. He would be grinning thinly and scratching the back of his head, and ChiChi was glad that she couldn't see him because it would make all of this so much harder, maybe even impossible.

"Goku, if you aren't going to talk to me, I have a lot of work to do…"

"No! I need to talk…we need to talk," said Goku. "I just…well…it's something that I think you kind of expected for awhile."

"Yes, I did," said ChiChi.

He was really upset now. When you know someone for forty years, you get really good at reading them, and Goku was easy to read no matter what. "Look…babe…I…this is harder to say than I thought it would be."

Fear was singing in her veins now, a delicious, rebellious stroke of independence that made her grip the coffee table until her knuckles turned white. "Are you trying to tell me that you think that…that it needs to stop?"

ChiChi couldn't identify what it was, at least not without hurting him more than was necessary, so she didn't say anything more. But she didn't need to. He had been trying to say it himself, it turned out.

"That's…that's it exactly, I think. I know. And look, before you go blaming yourself, let me blame me first. It was all me, ChiChi. My choices and my…my…" Outside, the wind chime on the porch clinked in a light puff of wind.

"No, it wasn't your choices. It wasn't your anything. It was you," said ChiChi, feeling like she understood something for the first time in her life. Things would have been so much better if she had understood it from the start, and that was where the ache in her chest was coming from, not from the fear of losing him. "And it was me, too; both of us together."

It was fitting. They had lived so much of their lives together, and yet separate, at once unified and alienated. Figures that they would destroy each other together, too.

Goku understood. Thank Kami that he understood. "I wish…oh, I don't know what, but it would be for something different than this."

"You're not coming back, are you? You're not ever coming back." ChiChi felt cold.

"No," said Goku. His voice was shameful, but not in the least bit distressed. He was leaving her forever and he wasn't sorry…and he might hate himself for not being sorry but it wouldn't change how he felt, who he was.

You should have known. You stupid girl, you should have known. Something's broken inside of him, something irreplaceable just isn't there, and you can't fix him, ChiChi, you just can't.

"I'm never going to see you ever again, am I?" he asked slowly.

"No," said ChiChi.

A heavy breath, shuddering and full, followed by a long pause. "Oh…Kami, ChiChi, I'm sor…we've made a real mess."

She almost laughed. It would have made it worse, so much worse, if he had tried to apologize. "I know. But I think the only thing left to do is to just…let it go."

"I hate it, but you're right," said Goku. "ChiChi?"

"Yes?"

"I love you."

They were simple words and yet they weren't. Coming from Goku, they could mean so many different things, but never the one that ChiChi wanted. What made it hurt to hear was that it was true, absolutely true…just not in any way that would make it possible for her to stay on the phone with him for one more instant.

"Goobye."

ChiChi hung up the phone and her hands found their way into her hair, untying the tight bun. Silver-gray and thinning, it fell past the middle of her back and hung there, and she imagined that if this were a movie it would have looked glamorous, possibly with some silly symbolism about freedom. But living without Goku wasn't freedom. It was just living, for better or worse she couldn't tell, but it was definitely here and now, solid and sharp and true.

There were other men in the world. But none like him. She closed her eyes and allotted exactly ten seconds for self pity and remembrance, snapshot memories of him winding through her head like the way your life flashes before your eyes when you die. It was kind of like a death, honestly. Except she wanted to believe, let herself believe that there would be something to come afterwards.

Then she opened her eyes and let go of the phone.