Disclaimer: Once again, I do not own anything. Biiiiiiiig surprise.
Face the Future
A boy's cry came from an upstairs window, and a dark-haired woman jumped up from her position on the front step to hurry inside the house. When she reached her son's room, ChiChi Son stood inside the doorway and watched as Gohan tossed and turned restlessly. His small face was puckered in sadness, and he clutched the blankets to his chest.
"Daddy!" Gohan cried, and though his eyes were squeezed tightly shut, the tears still managed to leak past his eyelids. ChiChi smiled sadly -- Gohan's nightmares of his father's death were a daily occurrence -- and Gohan, her brave, brave boy, pretended they hadn't happened when morning came. He had no idea his mother watched him night after night.
As she did every night, ChiChi sat on the edge of the bed and pulled the sleeping boy onto her lap. He was still jerking about fitfully, and ChiChi held him close; stroking his forehead and smoothing back his unruly black hair, which was soaked and plastered to his face in sweat. "It's okay," ChiChi kissed him on the forehead. "Mommy's here."
Gohan sighed in his sleep and snuggled up to her, curling into a little ball on her lap. ChiChi swallowed hard as she studied his face, noting how much Gohan looked like his father when he slept. ChiChi smiled sadly and put him back into bed, pulling the blankets over his recumbent form.
Gohan Son, the savior of the Earth at eleven years of age, yet still a frightened little boy when he thought no one could see him. It wasn't right -- it just wasn't fair! No one, especially a child, should have to go through the pain and hardships that Gohan had been forced to face. All ChiChi had wanted was to give Gohan a happy, normal childhood, but since Gohan was four years old, the boy's life had been nothing like happy or normal. ChiChi's teeth gritted together, and she clenched her fists until her fingernails bit into her palms.
She glanced at the calendar over Gohan's bed, noting how he had been marking off the days since Goku's death. "One month, three days," was written in Gohan's neat script, and ChiChi had to look away. A few days prior, Gohan had scrawled "I miss Daddy" in the day's square.
She shook her head and slowly opened her hands, watching as blood dribbled down her wrists. Absently ChiChi wiped her hands on her nightgown, then traced her fingers down Gohan's cheek. "Sweet dreams, Gohan."
ChiChi slowly made her way back to her room, but didn't go to bed. Instead she pulled her desk chair up to the window and stared out at the stars. It was the first night in a long time that hadn't been overcast, and the stars shone brightly enough that ChiChi could almost pretend there was a moon. She missed the moon; ever since Piccolo had destroyed it, seven years ago, the nights seemed so dark . . .
Even though she tried not to, ChiChi searched out a particular star and fixed her gaze upon it. "This is stupid," she muttered, even as she raised a finger to the windowpane, "He's been dead over a month now."
"I'm sorry I never got you a wedding present," Goku sighed, running a hand through his spiky black hair, a grimace on his face. "I'm kinda' new at this."
"That's all right," ChiChi smiled, leaning back. It was their wedding night, and the two of them were sitting outside on the front lawn. Goku reclined on his side, propped up on one elbow, and ChiChi sat beside him. "I'm still learning, too."
Goku frowned, looking slightly angry with himself. "Yeah, but . . . I know enough that you're supposed to give a girl a present when you marry her."
ChiChi laughed and put her hand over Goku's. He glanced at her, surprised, then grinned and took her hand in his. "You're a goose, Goku Son," ChiChi rolled her brown eyes. "At least, you are if you think it makes a bit of difference whether or not you got me anything."
Goku scowled, and he flopped down on the grass, hands behind his head. ChiChi lay down beside him, resting her head on his shoulder, and Goku awkwardly put an arm around her. "Hey, I've got an idea," Goku spoke up, and ChiChi raised an eyebrow. "See the stars? Pick one."
Lifting a hand, ChiChi pointed to a particularly bright, blue star. "That one."
"Okay, that one is yours," Goku smiled at her. "Well, ours. Is that good?"
"It's wonderful," ChiChi hugged him. "You're not as much of an amateur as you say you are."
Goku cocked an eyebrow and grinned, a playful expression on his face that ChiChi would not have believed had she not seen it herself. "Maybe, maybe not," he stood up, then extended a hand and pulled ChiChi to her feet. "Let's go inside and we'll see."
ChiChi rested her forehead against the cool glass. "Stop mourning," she told herself firmly. "Goku died, and he isn't coming back . . . he doesn't want to come back."
She still remembered the agony she felt when Gohan told her of Goku's death in the Cell Games, and his refusal to be wished back. "Stupid Goku," ChiChi snarled, smashing at the window with her fist. The glass shattered beneath the heavy blow and fell to the grass below, catching the light of the stars and sparkling on their way down like errant falling stars. "You gave your life for a planet that barely knows you exist. Only your friends know what you did. And more importantly, you left behind people who care for you! You're so quick to give your all for the planet you love, but why don't you stop to think about the ones who love you? Why do you have to be so brave all the time?"
She might have started crying then if her father hadn't run into the room in a panic. "ChiChi, ChiChi! Are you all right, honey?" he surveyed the damage done to the window, and ChiChi's bleeding knuckles. "What are you doing?"
ChiChi said nothing as her father bandaged her hand. "I was just mad, that's all," she explained finally. "I'm sorry, Dad. I didn't mean to break the window."
"Don't worry about the window, sweetheart!" Ox King scoffed, and put an arm around her shoulders. "Are you okay?"
More than anything ChiChi wanted to cry on her father's shoulder and let him comfort her, but instead she stiffened and pulled away. She had been doing too much crying lately. "I'm fine, Dad. I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?"
Ox King hesitated, then he sighed in defeat and left. "Okay. I'm just across the hall, if you need me."
Once her father was gone, ChiChi crawled slowly into bed and drew the covers up to her chin. "What is my problem?" she muttered. ChiChi's stomach twisted from grief, and she groaned. "Not now . . ." she'd been getting quite a few stomachaches that week, and ChiChi knew they had to be caused by anxiety. Like it or not, it was now in the best interest of her physical, as well as emotional, health that she begin to move on.
ChiChi kept her back pointedly turned away from Goku's side of the bed, which had been empty for so long. Not that it had been filled much even when Goku was alive, but now the feeling of knowing it would always be empty, until ChiChi herself passed on . . .
The dark-haired woman buried her face in the pillow, wishing morning to come immediately.
Sunlight streamed through the window, hitting Gohan in the face. The boy groaned and flung his hands over his eyes, but it didn't stop the persistent light. Finally Gohan forfeited the battle and sat up, knuckling his eyes tiredly. "One month, four days," he muttered, marking off another day on his calendar.
It was then that Gohan heard noises coming from the bathroom, and he jumped out of bed and hurried down the hallway. "Mom?" he called worriedly. "Grandpa?"
A note sat on the hall table. ChiChi, honey, I've gone shopping. See you soon -- Love, Dad. So it was his mother, then . . . "Mom!" it sounded like she was sick to her stomach.
Just as Gohan reached the door, his mother staggered into the hallway, clutching her midsection. Her face was pale, her hair straggling out of its nighttime braid. The bathroom smelled of vomit. "Mom, what happened?" Gohan cried out, running to catch his mother's arm.
"I'm okay, Gohan," ChiChi waved him away, but he led her to a chair in the living room anyway. "I'm just feeling a little tired, that's all. Now go on."
"But Mom," Gohan protested, "You're sick!"
"Nonsense, I'm fine now. Honestly."
Gohan looked at her funnily, trying to figure out whether or not she was lying, when something hit him about her ki sense. "Uh, Mom, have you been training again?"
ChiChi shook her head. The queasiness was beginning to settle down, and ChiChi breathed a sigh of relief. "Not really. Do martial arts cause stomach upsets?"
She laughed, but Gohan was thinking too hard to notice the humour. "No, it's just that your ki sense is weird. It's like it's stronger, or . . . something. I don't know."
ChiChi shrugged it off, though something was tickling the back of her mind. "I've been training a little bit, but not enough to increase my energy. At least, I don't think so. Are you sure you're not imagining it?"
"Maybe," Gohan admitted reluctantly. "Well, as long as you're okay . . ."
She smiled and patted him on the head. "For the third time, I'm fine, sweetheart. You go play."
Gohan's face brightened. "Can I go see Piccolo?"
ChiChi grinned affectionately. Some things would never change. "Sure. Just be back in time for lunch, okay, kid?"
Gohan kissed her cheek quickly and ran out of the room. "Thanks, Mom! I'll study hard when I get back, I promise."
ChiChi chuckled as she made her way to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for herself. "He's growing up so quickly," she murmured, "I'll have to watch it or I'll find myself getting left behind."
It wasn't until she had finished making breakfast that ChiChi realized she had nearly enough food to satiate Gohan's Saiyajin appetite. Looking at the vast array of dishes in dismay, ChiChi pressed a hand to her forehead and carried the heaping plates to the table anyway. She decided to eat as much as she could and save the rest for lunch.
A half hour later, ChiChi stared in shock at the empty plates and bowls in front of her. Had she really eaten all that? ChiChi shook her head, amazed at her own stomach, and moved the stack of dishes to the sink. "I know I wanted to get my mind off Goku," she muttered, "But this is absolutely ridiculous!"
When ChiChi was drying the last of the dishes, the telephone rang. "Hello?"
"ChiChi? O, good. It's Master Rôshi . . . how are you?"
ChiChi talked with the elderly hermit for a few minutes, making small talk until Master Rôshi finally came to the real reason for his call. "Listen, ChiChi, I've noticed how depressed everyone's been since your husband passed away -- heck, I haven't been myself lately, either. So I took the liberty of renting a club for the night next Tuesday -- so we could all get together. Y'know, to remember the good times we've had with Goku and maybe help each other move on. I think would be good for all of us."
ChiChi agreed. Maybe it would help to see all her friends again, since she had basically stayed at home since the incident. She'd missed talking to Bulma, especially. "Yes, that sounds like a good idea."
They discussed the time and place, then bade each other goodbye. ChiChi smiled slightly as she hung up the phone. "Gohan will be happy to hear this," ChiChi remarked. "I wonder if I'll be able to convince Piccolo to go with him?"
"I'm worried about Mom," Gohan frowned and glanced up at Piccolo, who was meditating a few feet above the river.
The green-skinned Nameksejin opened his eyes and looked down. Gohan was sprawled on the riverbank, hands behind his head. "Still in mourning, is she?"
"Not just that," Gohan spat out the blade of grass he'd been chewing. "She got sick this morning, throwing up and stuff like that, but when I asked her about it Mom just told me to go play. What do you think the matter is?"
Piccolo's eyebrow ridges rose. "You're asking me, kid? I have no idea."
Gohan's face screwed up in thought. "You don't think she's making herself sick from sadness, do you? She can't die from that, can she? What if she worries and worries and gets really, really sick, and -- AAHHH!!!"
The boy fell over as Piccolo fried him with a quick burst of his eye lasers. "Shut up, kid," Piccolo snorted. Gohan stood and brushed himself off, giving his friend a baleful stare. "I doubt your mother is mourning herself to death," Piccolo continued. "She doesn't seem like the kind of woman to do that -- she's too strong. But don't ever tell her I said that!"
Gohan laughed at the ferocious glare on Piccolo's face. "Okay, I won't . . . so what's wrong, then?"
"Last time I checked, I wasn't an expert on human ailments," Piccolo replied, deadpanning as usual. "You want me to make it a hobby?"
Gohan didn't answer; he was too busy staring at a leaf being swept downstream. Sometimes he felt like that -- like he was trapped in life's current, unable to escape . . . Gohan reached out to snatch the leaf out of the water, but it had moved too far down the river. That was how Gohan was feeling at that moment . . .
A hand on his shoulder made Gohan jump. "I'm sure it's nothing serious," Piccolo reassured him, then shot Gohan a calculating glance. "Don't get yourself down, either. You'll be able to pull yourself out of the river sooner than you think."
Gohan had stopped being surprised at how easily Piccolo could read his thoughts, but it still raised his eyebrows every time. "I don't know . . . everything's out of control now. It's all mixed up."
An expression crossed Piccolo's face that remarkably resembled a reminiscent smile. "Don't forget that you're still a kid. Trained by me, yes, but still a kid. I've had to yank you out of a river before, and I'll keep doing it as long as I have to."
"Thanks, Mister Piccolo," Gohan smiled, feeling the load on his chest beginning to dissipate.
"Yeah, yeah. Just don't read too much into it."
"Right. I'll remember that."
The stomach upsets had gotten worse. On Tuesday ChiChi was barely able to stand up to get out of the bathroom, but somehow she got back to her room before collapsing. "If I didn't know better . . ." she muttered, but pushed the idea out of her head immediately, before it even had time to form into a coherent thought.
By the time Gohan came down for breakfast, however, ChiChi was back to normal. "Hi, honey," she greeted him, giving Gohan his mountain of breakfast. "Did you sleep well?"
Gohan paused in devouring his rice to nod. "Yep. Best sleep I've had in a while, actually."
ChiChi was able to give a whole-hearted smile this time, because for the past two nights Gohan had been free of his nightmares. "I'm glad to hear that," she eyed the worn-out training suit her son was wearing. "Gohan, sweetheart . . . I love you, but why can't you wear something a little more . . . presentable?"
Gohan hung his head. "It's one of Dad's. I cut the sleeves and legs short. Are you mad?"
ChiChi felt a lump rise in her throat, but she quickly swallowed it. "O no, not at all. Just make sure you change before tonight, all right?"
"Huh?" Gohan blinked. "What's tonight?"
"The party that Master Rôshi is giving, remember?" ChiChi reached for her own second helping. "It's a little dressier than that."
The boy's eyes widened. "I can go, Mom? I thought I'd have to stay home and study."
"Of course you can go. From now on, you only have to study if you want to."
"But . . . I thought you wanted me to be a scholar!"
"I want you to succeed," ChiChi corrected. "I'm not going to push you anymore, if this isn't what you want to do. I still think you should go to school, but I won't make you spend all your free time studying."
Gohan looked puzzled, and he glanced at her with his dark eyes full of questions. "I don't think I understand."
ChiChi reached across the table and squeezed his hand. "Listen, Gohan, one of the main reasons I pushed you to study is because of Goku. I wanted you to become a scholar, yes, but . . . I thought that if I kept you home, your father would stick around more. Now that Goku's gone, though, there doesn't seem much point in it."
Gohan watched as his mother's eyes got a faraway look in them, like her mind was off on some distant planet. He knew how it felt, and he waited for her to speak, not pushing her. "I was wrong to restrict your freedom in the hope of seeing Goku more," ChiChi declared finally. "It wasn't right to push a kid to stay in his room all day with his nose in the books. I'm sorry, Gohan -- I wish I'd let you have a childhood instead of wanting you to grow up so fast. I knew keeping you here wouldn't really make Goku stay home, but since it was too much to ask for Goku to want to stay because of me, I kept thinking that maybe you could --"
ChiChi stopped speaking, and her chopsticks clattered to her bowl as she struggled to keep control of herself. Eleven year old boys, no matter how grown up they were, should not have to see their mothers in tears. "I'm sorry. From now on, you can spend your free time as you see fit. No more nagging."
"Mom," Gohan began slowly. "Dad loved you. He wouldn't want you to think he didn't."
"A long time ago, Gohan, he did love me. When we married, when you were born . . . up until he was killed in the fight with Radditsu, Goku loved me. After that," ChiChi held a chopstick tightly in her hand so tightly that it snapped in two. She sighed and set it down. "With all his training, your father didn't have much time for me anymore."
Gohan's eyes were wide. "He loved you even after that, Mom."
"O, yes, he did," ChiChi replied, feeling as though her heart had been ripped out. "The same as he loved Bulma, Kuririn, Vegeta, and the rest of his friends. That wasn't the kind of feelings I needed from him."
Gohan shook his head vehemently. "No! That isn't what I meant! You were special to him -- he told me so once, when we were training in the Room of Spirit and Time. Dad said that you're the most important person in his life, and that he would die if anything happened to you," the boy's eyes were serious, but were filled with a hidden pain. "He had a dream when he was sick from the virus -- he told me the androids came to our house to kill him, and you tried to stop them, but #18 strangled you. He cried in the dream, Mom, and he said he tried so hard to sake up to make sure you were still alive, but he couldn't. Dad told me that was the worst feeling in the world."
ChiChi felt a sense of wonder fill her, spreading through her veins and revitalizing her tired body and soul, like a cool breeze blowing through a parched desert. "He said that?"
"Why didn't he tell me?"
"I asked him that. Dad said it was because it had been so long since he told you he loved you, that he wasn't sure how you'd react. And that . . . he'd forgotten how to say it."
Everything was beginning to fall into place, with such startling clarity that ChiChi wondered how she had missed it before. Goku's half-embarrassed smiles, the frowns on his face when he started to say something but stopped himself, the awkward way he'd reach for her hand but fall short halfway there. Even the night before Goku left for the Cell Games, where as a final promise they had engaged in something they hadn't done in years, Goku had kissed her almost experimentally, like it was their wedding night all over again and he was unsure of what to do.
"I see . . . poor Goku. The day before he died, Gohan, he came up to me and tried to say something, but got frustrated and said 'Never mind'. I think now he was trying to tell me," ChiChi wasn't sure why she was relating this to Gohan -- he was too young to understand, but for some reason it was comforting to talk to him.
"He was," Gohan replied matter-of-factly. "I remember. He came outside, swearing at himself for being so scared. He said 'I love you' to everything; trees, rocks, grass . . . and kept telling himself. 'See? It's not so hard!' I should've told you to come outside, huh, Mom?"
ChiChi was surprised to find herself smiling. "Don't worry about it. Now listen -- I want you to go into town and buy yourself a good pair of clothes to wear for tonight. I'll give you the money."
"By myself?" Gohan inquired.
"No, I want Piccolo to go, too," a mischievous light twinkled in ChiChi's brown eyes. "He's coming to the party as your chaperone, even if I have to drag him myself, and I want him dressed appropriately."
Gohan snickered, then all at once burst into gales of laughter. "Mister Piccolo . . ." he gasped, " . . . in a suit . . ."
The corners of ChiChi's mouth tweaked upwards. "Yes, a suit," she handed Gohan a credit card."Go have fun. Buy some lunch, while you're at it."
Gohan grinned appreciatively. "Thanks, Mom. I love you," he kissed her cheek.
"Love you too, sweetheart," ChiChi ruffled his hair, then gave him a gentle shove to send him on his way.
Once she was alone, ChiChi pulled on a pair of shoes and went over to her air car. "I'll go see Bulma," she declared aloud, starting up the engine. "I haven't seen her in so long, it'll be good to get a conversation going before the party starts."
Halfway to Capsule Corp. ChiChi's stomach began to churn so violently that she had to pull over to avoid a crash. Face pale, ChiChi rubbed her abdomen with one hand, trying to quell the nausea that was so intense it brought tears to her eyes. What is going on? Am I grieving too much? she shook her head. That can't be it . . . I must've eaten something bad. I hope Gohan doesn't get sick.
Eventually the feeling passed and chiChi was able to drive again, albeit a little shakily. It was a relief when she pulled up to the Capsule Corp. building.
Bulma and Vegeta were coming out the front door, and when she saw her friend, Bulma shrieked and ran forward to wrap ChiChi in a huge hug. "ChiChi, I'm so glad to see you!" Bulma squealed, taking ChiChi by the arm and leading her inside the house. "How are you?"
"I'm all right, I suppose," ChiChi managed a smile.
Bulma caught the look, and she sobered up quickly. "I would've called you sooner, but I had no idea what to say to you. I'm still working on getting over Son's death, myself. I'm sorry I neglected you."
ChiChi smiled genuinely this time, and she squeezed Bulma's hand. "Thanks, Bulma, but it's okay. Really."
"Woman, are we going to leave, or not?"
Bulma rolled her eyes in exasperation at Vegeta's tone of voice. "Make up your mind, Captain Ego. First you didn't want to go shopping, and now you can't wait to leave?"
Vegeta's dark eyebrows knit together in annoyance. "Look, if you're going to drag me away from my training, I want to at least get it over with."
"O, fine," Bulma looked at ChiChi warmly. "We'll talk tonight, okay?"
ChiChi nodded and gave her friend a quick hug. "It was good seeing you, even if it was just for a second."
Bulma walked back to Vegeta, who was waiting impatiently. "All right, Mr. Princey Pants. I'm ready."
Vegeta slapped her on the behind to push her out the door. "Get going," he ordered.
Bulma whirled on him, fire burning in her eyes, then she grabbed Vegeta's jaw and kissed him. "Don't do that," she told him sternly, then winked at ChiChi.
Vegeta opened his mouth to protest, then closed it and stalked outside, muttering something about stubborn women who didn't know the difference between privacy and public.
"I'm so good at arguments," Bulma grinned, flashing the "V for victory" sign with her fingers. "Anyway, if you want to stay for a while, Kuririn and his date are in the other room."
One eyebrow skyrocketed. "Kuririn? Who?"
ChiChi followed them outside, but had to grab at the doorjamb as a sudden wave of dizziness washed over her. A worried expression flickered across Bulma's face. "What's the matter?"
ChiChi waved off the concern. "I'm fine. My stomach's just been giving me trouble lately, that's all."
Vegeta looked her up and down, a small sneer touching his features. "It's no wonder," he snorted, "You have a brat on the way. I don't know why your son didn't sense it. Come, woman, we're late."
Leaving a very stunned ChiChi leaning against the door frame for support, Vegeta pulled Bulma into their jet and took off.
You have a brat on the way. . .
ChiChi shook her head to clear her thoughts, and a hand went unconsciously to her midsection. Goku . . . had he known, when he'd left, of what he'd given her? How could she raise two sons with no income, with only the prize money Goku had won in tournaments to live off?
Enough. She'd think of this later. ChiChi made her way to the living room, where Kuririn was sitting, grinning, on the couch. When he saw ChiChi, Kuririn jumped to his feet and hugged her enthusiastically.
"I have a date, I have a date!" Kuririn whispered triumphantly, so ecstatic that he barely noticed when ChiChi pulled back, a hand held protectively over her stomach.
"Who is it?" ChiChi asked him, sitting down on a chair across from the couch.
Kuririn was bouncing up and down on the sofa in excitement. "You won't believe this, but it's #18! I heard she was living in the forest, so I went looking and finally found her. I told her I was going to a party, and asked if she wanted to come."
"And so she punched me," Kuririn admitted, "And smacked me through a few trees . . . when I finally hit a rock and stopped bouncing, #18 came up to me and asked if I still wanted to go out with her," Kuririn grinned. "So I said that I did! #18 looked at me funnily and glared for a second, then muttered that if I was going to be stubborn about it she might as well come. So I'd shut up and quit whining, I think she said."
ChiChi gave him the thumb's up. "Well, good for you, Kuririn. I know #18 is much better for you than Maron ever was."
"I hope so," Kuririn ran a hand over his head, and it was then ChiChi noticed the buzz cut-length hair growing on his head. "Well, we'll see how it goes after tonight."
#18 came into the room then, looking uncomfortable when she saw ChiChi. ChiChi, on the other hand, stood up to greet her. "Hello, #18, it's nice to meet you. I'm ChiChi Son," she extended her hand for #18 to shake.
"Goku's widow," the cyborg stated, ignoring her hand. "I tried to kill your husband."
Instead of becoming offended, ChiChi laughed easily. "Who hasn't? Some of my best friendships have started out that way."
#18 looked surprised, then a small smile crossed her face and she reached out to shake ChiChi's hand. "Thank you."
ChiChi returned to her seat, and #18 sat warily next to Kuririn. "You're very pretty," ChiChi observed.
#18's smile turned into something more genuine. "Do you mean that?"
Taken aback, ChiChi replied, "Of course! Why wouldn't I?"
#18 shrugged, her straight blonde hair brushing her shoulders with the movement. "Some people give compliments as icebreakers, or as a way to get the conversation going, that's all."
"Well, I meant it," ChiChi smiled broadly, feeling a connection with this quiet, reserved girl. "You're a beautiful young woman."
"Thank you," #18's gaze ran over ChiChi's face. "So are you."
"You both are," Kuririn interjected, grinning. "I feel honoured to be in the same room as the two of you."
#18 slapped him on the head, a faint blush colouring her cheeks, but ChiChi just chuckled. "You'll get used to it," ChiChi warned #18. "Kuririn is very honest."
#18 tucked a strand of hair behind one ear self-consciously, and Kuririn let out a small, embarrassed laugh.
ChiChi winced as her stomach gave a sudden twinge of pain, and Kuririn watched, eyes wide, as she held her stomach. "Um," Kuririn spoke up, tapping his index fingers together nervously. "Can I ask you a . . . personal . . . question?"
"Yes. I'm going to have a baby," ChiChi replied simply, her good humour beginning to disappear. "Listen, it was good to talk to you again, Kuririn, and really nice to meet you, #18. I'm going to go back home and take a nap."
As she was leaving, ChiChi heard #18 scolding Kuririn. 'Nice going," she chided. "Her husband is dead, Kuririn, and I bet the baby came as a shock. You should have let her tell you when she was ready."
Very perceptive of you, ChiChi thought dully. She knew Kuririn would keep the knowledge to himself, but what about Vegeta? A vision came to her, of all her friends whispering to each other and unsure of how to act or what to say around her. ChiChi's fingers tightened on the steering wheel until her knuckles whitened, and she swore quietly to herself. "Yet another thing that's happened to make everyone treat me like I'm made of glass. I don't know how much more of this I can handle."
Once ChiChi got home she went up to her room and sat on her bed, massaging her stomach in an attempt to erase the nausea. A baby . . . how could she be expecting another baby? Gohan was eleven, for heaven's sake!
Of course, ChiChi thought, she had been a teenager when Gohan was born. I guess it isn't such a preposterous idea,ChiChi admitted. I'm a young woman, and I have most of my life ahead of me.
ChiChi picked up a photograph of herself, Goku, and Gohan, that was sitting on the bedside table. Smiling faintly, ChiChi ran her fingers over the three figures. They had been so happy then, before all the business with Radditsu and fighting, when their lives were orderly and Goku stayed home every day.
A door slammed downstairs. "Mom? Hey, Mom, I'm home!"
"Up here, honey," ChiChi called back, setting the picture back on the night-stand carefully as she heard footsteps pounding up the stairs.
Gohan ran into the room, beaming. He was dressed in a black suit, complete with a rather clumsily-tied bow tie. He looked adorable. "Well? How do I look?"
"Dashing and handsome," ChiChi replied, feeling pride well up inside her; this was her son -- she had raised him, and he hadn't disappointed her one bit.
"Mister Piccolo thinks he looks ridiculous," Gohan was obviously trying not to laugh.
"Nonsense. I'm sure he's quite the ladykiller," ChiChi commented wickedly.
Gohan burst out laughing, and he threw up the window sash. "Didja' hear that one, Piccolo?" he yelled gleefully.
"I heard," Piccolo's voice floated up from the front lawn. "I suppose your mother thinks she's very funny, too."
"I thought so," Gohan returned, then turned back to ChiChi. "Are you gonna' get ready now, Mom?"
ChiChi took a deep breath, and motioned Gohan to sit beside her. He came and cuddled up at her side, and ChiChi put her arm around him. "I don't think I'm gonna' go, sweetie."
Gohan glanced up at her, confusion written on his features and wrinkling his forehead. "Why not? Are you feeling sick again?"
"Well . . . yes and no," ChiChi sighed and brushed her bangs out of her eyes. "The truth of it is, you . . . you're going to have a new brother or sister."
Gohan's eyes widened, and ChiChi explained to him everything from her bouts of stomach sickness up to Vegeta's blunt commentary. " . . . so there you go. I don't know how far along I am exactly, but probably about eight months from now."
"You're upset," Gohan observed, his face serious, "Are you sad because Dad won't be here to see the baby?"
ChiChi considered. "I don't know, honey. To be honest, I'm not sure whether I'm sad about Goku, or worried about you and the baby. Goku, he . . . he's fine. He's happy where he is. You two, on the other hand -- I don't know how I'm supposed to send you through college and raise a child by myself."
"I'll help," Gohan declared, jutting out his chin stubbornly. "I don't know how, but I'll help. I can take care of myself."
ChiChi managed a wan smile. "You've always been a help to me, Gohan. You're a good boy. I'm sorry I yell at you so much."
Gohan leaned his head against her shoulder. "It's okay."
A few minutes passed, then ChiChi patted Gohan on the head. "You'd better get ready, kiddo, you don't want to be late."
Gohan frowned. "You're coming, aren't you?"
"I don't know . . . with Bulma and Vegeta, and even Kuririn and #18, it'll be so hard to go alone without Goku," ChiChi bit her lip, "I'm a little confused about what I'm so upset about. I don't think I'm mourning for him anymore, since he wasn't sad about leaving, but it's still going to be hard for me to live without him."
"I know it's not the same," Gohan began, almost timidly, "But you can go to the party with me, if you want. I know it's not as good as going with Dad," he added hastily, "But --"
Without warning, ChiChi found herself laughing. "Dear, you have no idea how proud I would be to go to the party with you," she glanced down at her clothes and winced. "But I don't have anything to wear --"
Gohan grinned, his expression an exact replica of his father's. "I thought you'd be worried about that. Wait here," he scrambled off the bed and scampered out of the room.
ChiChi stood and released her dark hair from its severe bun, letting it fall down around her shoulders and running her fingers through it. As she did so, an unbidden memory sprang to mind.
ChiChi finished brushing her hair, and prepared to put it back in its usual ponytail.
"Aww, don't do that," Goku remarked from across the room, where he was lying in bed. "Leave it down."
ChiChi jumped and spun around. "I didn't think you were awake, Goku. You startled me."
Goku gave her a roguish grin as he got up and padded across the room in his bare feet. "Sorry, I'm up now . . . how come you have to put your hair up? It's so pretty."
"Well, it gets in the way," ChiChi blushed with pleasure at the compliment. "I guess you won't like it that I was going to cut it short before the baby is born, huh?"
"Noooo!" Goku protested, lifting a hand to play with the silken strands. "Please don't cut it? I love your hair!" he twirled some around his finger, seemingly fascinated.
ChiChi smiled and put her head on his shoulder. "All right, I won't. Only for you, though."
Goku grinned, his trademark expression, and placed his other hand on ChiChi's swollen belly. "Thanks. I'm lucky I married such a pretty girl. I hope the baby grows up to look just like you," he looked alarmed. "I mean, unless it's a boy . . ."
ChiChi just laughed. "You always were a little strange, Goku," she teased, and she put the hair elastic back on the dresser. "I'll leave it down, just this once."
Now, ChiChi smiled to herself and left her hair the way it was. It wouldn't hurt to leave her hair down, just for one evening. "You know what, Goku," she said aloud, "I think I'm finally starting to move on. For the past couple of weeks, I was crying for myself instead of you. I'm really sorry about that. But I'm finally able to get over that."
Gohan came back into the room, carrying a large, white box. His mouth dropped open when he saw her. "Wow, Mom, you look beautiful! Was your hair always this long?" he grinned and handed her the box. "Well anyway, here. Open it."
She lifted the lid off the box, and inside was a dress. It was made of a soft material, dark forest green in colour with silver sparkles interwoven through the fabric. It was long and sleeveless, and looked as though it would fit not too tightly, but not baggy, either.
ChiChi gasped as she held it up against herself. "Gohan, it's . . . it's beautiful!"
Gohan was grinning from ear to ear. "I'm glad you like it, Mom. Piccolo bought it."
An outraged and embarrassed Piccolo thundered, "I DID NOT!!!"
Gohan rolled his eyes. "O, riiiiiiiiiiight . . . I bought it all by myself," then he grinned maliciously and continued in a louder voice, "But he helped me pick it out!"
Piccolo's only reply was a groan.
ChiChi laughed and gave Gohan a hug. "Your hug is next, Piccolo," she called, and was rewarded by a strangled gurgle coming from the Nameksejin. "Gohan, you're the most wonderful son ever. I love you!"
As ChiChi left to put on the dress, she smiled to herself. I'll raise our child the best I can, Goku . . . and Gohan will help. They'll both make you proud, I promise.
She looked at herself in the mirror, and for the first time in years, ChiChi felt beautiful. I love you, Goku. I always have, and I always will. When we meet again someday, I swear to you I'll have the best life to tell you about. Until then . . . wait for me.
ChiChi smoothed down her hair and the front of her dress, then took a deep breath and went out to meet Gohan.