Growing Pains

Gohan hurt.

A lot.

His legs hurt, his arms hurt, and his head hurt, every piece and fiber of his body hurt. He really shouldn't have been surprised but he was. After all, Daddy and Mr. Piccolo were both hard teachers. They were becoming harder and harder the closer they got to the Android invasion. Even Daddy was getting harder and usually Goku was the one that was telling Piccolo he was too hard. Gohan was glad for the change though. He felt like he was becoming stronger by the day and when even his father told him "to get up" he felt like he was a step closer to being an equal fighter, not someone his father and the others had to protect. He could not afford to be a liability.

Not that he minded the cool comfort of his bed at night though.

However, the burning of his muscles made it exceptionally hard to sleep. He found it hard to focus or get comfortable. Usually, he slept on his side, but tonight, he was trying every way possible. He turned onto his back. Ouch…bad idea. The muscles in his upper shoulders protested this position immensely. They screamed out in pain, pounding on the inside of his skin like a million tiny needles. Shifting, slowly, so to appease the burning in his body, he settled on his belly, turning his head so that he could breathe. No good that way either. Now, it was his abs that were screaming in agony, like they were coated in red hot coals. He sat up, pulled his knees to his chest, trying to lie on his left side this time. That was slightly better but his legs were twitching, his muscles constantly trying to readjust. He sat up a little bit, rubbing at his lower extremities. No good. Why did Daddy make it look so easy? Daddy's massages would knock out a dinosaur. Not too surprising, considering how large his father's hands were.

Kicking aside his covers, the boy sat up, pulling on his night slippers. Slipping out into the hallway, he stuck his head down the hall, then slowly made his way towards his parents' bedroom. His legs protested every movement and he couldn't help but emit a slight "Ow!" with each step. He paused and pushed open his parents' door slowly, watching the stream of light filter in on his mother's face. She groaned lightly before rolling over but she stayed silent. Gohan let out a slight sigh of relief that he hadn't woken her before making his way, slowly to his father's side of the bed. He paused, a moment, listening.

His parents' room was quiet as it always was. Contrary to his friends' joking, Daddy did not snore. Neither did Mom. Now, Grandpa, HE snored! That was one reason Gohan routinely didn't like to stay overnight at Grandpa's. He loved visiting the older man but it was impossible to sleep over there. Last time, he'd heard the man even through the thick stone walls. But his parents' room was always peaceful at night, illuminated with only their faint breathing sounds. Truth be told, he hated waking either one of them up because they always looked so pleasant. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes he would find them sleeping almost directly against one another, his father's arm wrapped around his mother's waist. He left them be at that sight but has asked his father in the morning about it. Goku had laughed, hand behind his head and said that his wife called it 'spooning.' Made her sleep better apparently.

They weren't spooning tonight though. ChiChi was curled up on her side and Goku was lying on his opposite side, one arm flung over his face, the other buried under his own weight. Gohan sometimes fell asleep like that and would wake up with a numb arm. He wondered, briefly, if he got it from his father and smiled at the idea. He loved hearing what traits he got from which parent; he knew for a fact that his temper was all from Mom. He loved hearing that even little things, like the way he slept or ate came from his father. It was always encouraging to hear you had the traits of someone you admired so.

Speaking of which, he remembered his reasoning for coming in here by way of the sharp pain that bit through his lower leg. Wincing, he rubbed it briefly but felt little relief. He had tried a lot of things for relief, everything except medication. Despite being seven years old and fully capable of taking care of himself, Daddy and Mom told him fiercely that he was not to touch any of the medication, herbal or otherwise, without one of them. Even Goku, who usually was more encouraging of independence than his mother was, had been stern on it. So, while he was sure he knew what herbal mixtures he needed, he opted to obey his parents instead.

He touched his father's arm, gently, shaking it, whispering "Daddy…"

Goku groaned and opened his eyes, finding his son by his bedside. Yawning, he sat up, stretching, "What is it, Gohan? Didn't wet the bed again did you?"

Gohan flushed bright red in the dark of the room, "Haven't done that for a year Daddy!" He pouted lightly; that was still a tender topic with him. It was embarrassing!

"Nightmare?" His father tried again, still not getting out of bed but he turned so he was facing his child, smiling lightly at him. He still looked half asleep but the gentleness of his voice never wavered. Nightmares were more common in the Son household than most people would have thought so this would not be an uncommon occurrence although it was becoming much rarer that Gohan woke his parents up for it. Usually, it had to be a pretty bad nightmare to bring him into their bedroom, especially since they began their training for the Android attacks.

"Nu uh." With a shake of the head, Gohan dashed this possibility from his father's mind and clarified, "I wanted somethin' for my muscles, they hurt."

Blinking, Goku sat up, kicking his sheets aside, "Oh, okay." Standing, he stretched a little more then headed out the door, gesturing his son to follow. Gohan did so, though not without a wince when he moved his legs. His father's eyes took careful note of this but he didn't say anything. As they walked towards the kitchen, his father asked "Did you do your cool-down exercises?"

Gohan nodded "Sure, I did those while you and Piccolo were finishing up."

Goku gave a nod but paused just before opening the cabinets. He frowned, thinking. "Say, Gohan?"

The child looked up, sitting down in one of the kitchen chairs, "yeah, Daddy?"

Goku knelt down on one knee, smiling at his only child. "Lemme see."

Gohan promptly extended one of his aching legs. Goku pressed lightly into the muscles, finding that yes there were a few knots there but not as many as he suspected. The boy's muscles were growing and not just from the trauma they were putting them under. He thought a moment, then said "Well, you're putting them through the ringer, Gohan."

The boy nodded "I know. I tried to use other things for them but—"

Goku laughed lightly but Gohan knew his father enough to know it was not personally directed. "I wasn't saying that because I'm disappointed, son." He clarified as he stood back up and retrieved a small jar from the cabinet. He poured a little of it into his hand before mixing it with some tea that had in the fridge. "I was saying that I'm not surprised they hurt. You're making them grow and they were already growing." He handed the glass to his son, saying "Drink that down," as he continued, "You didn't think your mother and I hadn't noticed the growth spurt, did you?"

Gohan sipped at his tea a moment then gagged and pulled it away from his mouth "Aack!"

Goku laughed a bit louder that time, "I know, I know it tastes nasty but it's—"

"Nasty, nothing, Daddy" the child protested "It's dis-gust-ing." He was very sure to put emphasis on the word. He had taken this type of medicine before so it was not a surprise but it still never tasted any better. When he was younger, Goku used to give him an ice cream with it but he was getting too big for that now. Yes…just like he was getting too big to be whining about the taste. He had woken his father up because he hurt, now the man was helping him and all he could do was gag at the nasty taste? That was not very sensitive of him.

He eyed his father, plugged his nose and downed the rest of the glass in one gulp though he could not help the "yuck!" that came from his throat. He set the glass down and felt his father ruffle his hair again. He smiled at the gesture and asked, "Daddy, whatta you mean a growth spurt?"

Goku let a grin pass his face, despite his sleepiness. "You're eatin' more because your muscles are growin'. They were growin' before we started training and now we're just speedin' it along. Every time you stretch a muscle, it repairs itself and gets stronger but they're already gettin' stronger because you're growing older." He stood up and his son followed suit.

"I don't feel older, Daddy" he admitted, rubbing his neck. That was the truth. He still felt like he was always running to keep pace with his father and Piccolo, let alone hoping to meet or surpass them. In fact, he had pretty much accepted that he would never surpass Piccolo and that surpassing his father was something he could achieve only in his dreams and even there, the logical part of his brain would awake just long enough to remind him of how impossible it was. Still, it was a nice thought to have and it gave him inspiration.

Goku smirked "Well, I see it. You aren't waking me up like you used to, you're taking charge in the training, you're jumping right into it, and you're choosing to eat everything and not just the meats and fish." He teased a bit here as when Gohan was younger, not even three years ago, it was a chore to make him eat any vegetables. Goku managed to get some in him by eating them himself and Gohan tried to mimic him and ChiChi did her best to doctor them up but it was still like pulling teeth. Now though, especially since they were training and trying to get stronger, Gohan was eating them without protest though it was obvious he still didn't like some of them. Goku was also acutely aware of the fact that Gohan's gi pant legs were rising more and more above the ankle.

Gohan gave his father a smile in response to the light teasing and followed him upstairs. It would take a bit for the herbal tea to have any effect but he was grateful for it. He supposed he could suffer about an hour before it kicked in.

"Where are you going, little man?"

Pausing in his tread, Gohan blinked, turning from the door, "Uh…back to bed?"

Goku blinked then asked, stepping forward "You mean your muscles don't hurt anymore?"

Gohan turned, walked to meet his father mid-way, "Well, yeah they still hurt but I know the tea takes time to work."

Goku ruffled his son's hair "And if they still hurt then Daddy's job isn't done. His job's to make the pain stop."

Gohan blushed a little bit. As flattering as it was to have his father fussing over him, it also served to remind him of all the things he couldn't do yet. It was encouraging because it pushed him to do more but it likewise was frustrated that he was still so limited. He only needed to replay the day's training session in his mind to come to that conclusion. He was disgusted by it. He was sure he could have done better. He knew he could do better and he WOULD do better! But…yet, here he was, waking his father up because he hurt? What kind of fighter did that? A weak one.

"No," his father's deep voice penetrated his thoughts and lifted his chin so he was forced to look into his eyes. He blinked in surprise though, he had spoken out loud? His cheeks burned an even deeper shade but that calmed a bit when his father spoke out again, taking on a stern tone that he rarely used. In fact, Gohan could count on his fingers of one hand the number of times that his father has brought out that stern tone. It served its purpose though; when Goku broguth out that tone, Gohan's thoughts all fled except for focusing on what his father was saying.

Goku [urposely did not kneel down that time; he had learned a long time ago that if he wanted to make an impact, for some reason, standing at his full height seemed to do it. So he glanced down into his son's eyes and intoned "I don't want to hear that kind of talk, son. You are not weak, do you hear me?

Gohan would have lowered his head but his father had too firm a grip on his chin so he settled for diverting his eyes instead. "Daddy," he spoke quietly, "I'm getting my tail handed to me every single time we go train. I barely get any hits on you or Piccolo."

Goku considered this for a moment, thinking hard then stated "How old are you, son?"

Taken by surprise by the sudden question, Gohan blanched "What?"

Chuckling lightly, Goku repeated "How old are you, son?"

Frowning, Gohan wondered where this question was going but given his father has asked twice, he opted to answer. "Seven, you missed my birthday this year."

Goku gave a saddened look "I know, I'm sorry about that."

Gohan just gave a smile "It's okay but why did you ask, Daddy?" he pouted "You DO know my birthday, right?" his question was half-teasing, half-serious so he relaxed a bit when Goku laughed out loud as well.

"'Course I do. I'm making a point." He did kneel down now, so he was face to face with his child "How old is Daddy?"

Gohan blinked, surprised. "Uh…" Truth be told, Gohan never bothered to think about it. As far as he knew, Daddy had always been the way he was: older, wiser and unbeatable. So, while the side of him that longed to be mature and respected tried to think of a good response, the child in him replied: "Old."

Goku wrinkled his forehead and pouted "Gee, thanks."

"Well, I dunno Daddy, I never bothered to think about it. You and Mom have always been…well…old to me."

"For your information, little mister" Goku teased lightly as he steered his son down the hall a bit more "I'm only twenty-seven."

Gohan eyed his father "Only? Dad, that's…ancient."

Goku opted to ignore that response and asked, "Did I tell you when my grandpa started training me?"

Gohan gave a nod as they entered the bathroom and his father turned on the tub water, making the room fill with steam when the hot water poured out. He had heard that story many a time and he enjoyed it. The older man sounded like he would have been fun to meet. Gohan knew that his father's relationship with his grandfather was a treasured bond and wondered, sometimes, if he was doing his namesake proud. Shaking his head to stay focused, he yelped lightly when his father stripped his nightshirt off him without any warning but replied to the man's question "Yeah, you said you were five or so."

"So, you're my little math wizard. How long has Daddy been doing martial arts training then?" With a flick of his hand, Goku tossed his son's nightshirt on the stool to keep it dry and nodded in encouragement as the boy caught on and stripped off his boxers and slacks.

Frowning in concentration, Gohan replied, "Well, twenty-two years then Daddy."

Goku pulled his son up by the arm and while he probably didn't need to anymore, he still held onto the boy's arm as he lowered him into the hot water. He heard his son's breath come out in a hiss from the heat but then the muscles relaxed into the warm water. Gohan settled down and eyed his father, "Daddy, why?"

"The hot water will relax your muscles." Goku replied as he pulled the hose over and sprayed down his boy's hair, though he was aiming more for the tenseness of the boy's shoulders and neck than anything else. Gohan parted his wet hair and clarified

"No, I mean, why did you ask me that?" He asked, looking over his shoulder at his father.

"Oh." Goku adjusted the hose and rubbed into the wet skin with his large hands. Gohan groaned in protest and gritted his teeth as his muscles protested the treatment but listened and kept still. "Well, think about it, Gohan. Daddy's been training for twenty-two years. You started when you were four so you've only been doing it for three years; son and you're already past what I was when I fought in my first tournament. And I was thirteen when that happened, little man." He moved down a bit to work on his son's upper arms, digging in deep to get at those stubborn muscles knots. There were a few that were resisting but he would soon take care of that. He felt his son tense and whispered an apology to the boy but followed up his massage with another spray of warm water. "So in three years you've improved more than I did in eight!" He worked a bit deeper on the boy's biceps. They had the most muscle knots that he could feel. He was hating making his little boy hurt but it was working out those muscles kinks and it would also help any pain brought on by anything other than muscle strains. His grandpa used to rub his back to make him relax so he would do something similar with his own child.

Gohan blinked, taking in what his father had said: more improvement in his three years than in his father's eight. He was more than a little stunned at that realization. Goku hugged his son tightly from behind him and worked down on the boy's upper back, attacking the protesting muscles. Gohan winced lightly but quickly tried to hide that discomfort. Swallowing, "Really, Daddy?" the boy inquired, leaning back and letting his father's large muscles work out the kinks in his own. "I've improved that much?" The warm water and his father's hands were making his arms and back dull in pain and the hot water was seeping into his legs, making them feel less and less like they were on the receiving end of an angry seamstress.

"More than that, son." He assured the boy and moved up again, working on the boy's neck. Goku saw the warm water starting to loosen the muscles and relax the boy's entire body and more than that, he saw the telltale signs that sleep was quickly coming. Goku kept working on the boy's neck, assuring him "More than I could have imagined, Gohan. You're just too hard on yourself. You're almost at me and Piccolo's level." He grinned at his child, "I want you to just do the best you can and you'll see, son, everything else will come." He smiled at his small boy, saying "And Daddy is always going to be proud of you, no matter what!" He ruffled the boy's hair with one hand "Remember, you're always at least twice as strong as you think you are! We really need to work on that…"

Gohan didn't exactly believe that but given that his father seemed determined, he allowed himself to somewhat believe it. It was reassuring to hear exactly how much he had improved, how much he had grown in such a short amount of time. Was it so outrageous to want to be one with his father's level one day? Daddy didn't seem to think that was so crazy. That was encouraging. In his dreams, Gohan fought side by side with his father, being his martial arts equal. He was not ashamed to admit he had such selfish dreams. And what his father said…about always being twice as strong as he thought he was? Was there any truth to that? It seemed ridiculous but yet, he was inclined to believe it, even if it seemed stupid. Daddy never lied to him, he knew that much. Maybe…maybe he was being too hard on himself. After all, they had only been training a few weeks…

Goku smiled lightly as his child opened his mouth and yawned widely and rubbed at his left eye. "Muscles feel better, little man?"

A light nod greeted his inquiry and Goku scooped the boy up with a towel, rubbing the boy's wild hair down before helping him redress. "Then, Daddy's job is done. Let's get you back to bed before you fall asleep standing up."

Gohan gave a nod again and laid his head on his father's shoulder as Goku helped him pull his slacks up. He felt his father's chest rumble with a low laugh then felt himself lifted off the ground and cradled tightly into that large chest. He was suddenly exhausted and he doubted it was from the herbal remedy though he knew those did tend to make one sleepy. Rather, he blamed his father's warm bath and muscle massage but his muscles weren't screaming at him anymore. They felt good. They felt limp as cooked noodles though so Gohan was glad for the ride back to his bed although he felt some small part of him protest being carried like a little child. Given how limp he felt at the moment, he was more than happy to tell that voice to shut up for the time being.

In contrast to the hot water, his bed sheets felt so cool and inviting. He buried his face into the plush pillow and then yelped a little when he felt his father's hands on his legs, working into them just like he had the arms. Gohan winced a bit at first but he felt those muscle knots loosen and disappear within a few minutes. Closing his eyes, he murmured, "Thanks Daddy."

Goku finished one leg and worked on the other. The legs were not as bad but by the time he finished rubbing them, his son's breathing was steady and even. Smiling to himself, he stood, pulled the sheets tightly around his son, and whispered as he left, because ChiChi had always said people picked up things when they were sleeping,

"Remember, little man, you are, at least, twice as strong as you think you are." He smiled as he headed for the door and added "And every inch you grow, that level grows too." He didn't know if Gohan believed him but Goku made it a personal goal and duty for himself, not as a martial artist but as a father, to make sure his son knew how special he was. How he was going to do that, he wasn't entirely sure but helping him see how talented he was would be a great place to start.