Disclaimer : I do not own DB/Z/GT. If I did, I wouldn't have to make my living by babysitting.
A/N: I'm baaaack!! Okay, so I'm still not allowed to write yet, but computers are all right. This is a story about ChiChi in the future timeline (again... I have an obsession with it, it seems), before poor ol' Goku kicks the bucket from his heart virus. SEE what happens when I'm not allowed to write for a week? I start thinking EVIL things!!!! It's good to be back, anyway ...
A slender hand dipped into a bucket of cold water, soaking a carefully-folded cloth in the liquid before placing it gently on a fevered brow. Son ChiChi wiped a strand of black hair out of her eyes with the back of one hand as she stroked her husband's cheek with the other, a pained expression wrinkling the smooth lines of her forehead and deadening her black eyes.
"O, Goku," she whispered, her mouth tightening with concern. "My poor Goku . . ."
A whimper at her side made ChiChi look down. Her son, Gohan, was curled up beside her, looking at his father with plaintive eyes, holding one hand in his. "Daddy, please wake up," Gohan pleaded. His eyelashes glimmered with tears, and he glanced up at his mother. "Mom, how long is Daddy gonna' be sick?"
ChiChi put her arm around him and held him close, wishing she knew the answer. Three days ago Goku had been his normal, boisterous self, devouring all the food in the house in one meal, when suddenly he had collapsed. Carried to bed by his wife and father-in-law, Goku had not risen -- or even broken consciousness -- since then. A medical examination could only turn up the information that a virus had attacked Goku's heart . . . and that it was almost decidedly fatal.
"I don't know, sweetheart," ChiChi replied honestly, "There's no telling. I'm sorry."
Gohan fell silent, but he squeezed Goku's hand even harder, as if his presence could breach the gap between unconsciousness and awakening and bring his father back to them.
Suddenly Goku's placid face twitched, and his features became riddled with pain as he clutched at his chest and screamed in agony. Quickly ChiChi mopped his forehead, pushing his hair back, all the while cursing herself for being unable to do more. "Goku, honey, I'm here," she told him, thinking that perhaps her voice could reach him, wherever his mind was. "Goku, it's ChiChi. I'm right here, sweetheart, you're not alone."
Goku continued to convulse, and the sight made Gohan bury his face in his mother's side. ChiChi continued speaking, possessed with the absurd hope that knowledge of her presence might bring Goku solace. She caressed his face softly, wiping away the sweat that beaded up on his skin as fast as she could dry it.
Goku's face contorted in a valiant effort to speak, his lips moving soundlessly. A touch of the weight seemed to lift from ChiChi's shoulders as she bent over him. "Goku? Goku, it's all right. What is it?"
Finally, he managed to speak -- just two words, but it was enough to tear through ChiChi's heart like a red-hot knife: "Bu..lma ... where's ... Bulm..a?"
ChiChi's mouth dropped open, and she struggled to keep her composure. Bulma? At her side, Gohan gasped, "But what about you, Mom?"
"Hush, Gohan," ChiChi chided absently, turning her attentions back to Goku. "Bulma's just outside, dear. I'll go get her."
Using all her strength of character to keep from sobbing, ChiChi took Gohan's hand and led him to the living room, where all Goku's friends were waiting. Most of them came each morning or afternoon, but Piccolo, Kuririn, and Yamucha had camped out from the first day the virus had struck. ChiChi forced herself to smile as she walked over to Bulma. "He wants to see you," she told her.
"Me?" the turquoise-haired woman was clearly startled as her head snapped up. "Are you sure?"
ChiChi nodded, feeling Gohan's hand tighten over her finger. "I'm sure. I'd . . . hurry, if I were you. I don't know how much time we have," Gohan let out a small hiccup of sadness, and ChiChi instantly regretted she'd said that.
Bulma rose slowly to her feet and went into the room, looking back at her friends with a nervous expression on her face. Once she had gone, Gohan let go of ChiChi's hand and went over to Piccolo, who was leaning against the wall with his eyes closed. The small boy knelt down at the Nameksejin's feet, silent tears running down his face as he fought to be strong. For a second Piccolo didn't move, then he draped his cape in front of Gohan so he could have his privacy as he cried.
A few minutes later Bulma rejoined them, and the false composure she had manufactured for the past three days had shattered to nothingness. She was crying, and her carefully-applied makeup was in dark streaks below her indigo eyes. She sat heavily on the sofa next to ChiChi, and the two women looked at each other sadly.
"He isn't going to make it," Bulma reported, her voice shaky to the point where it was difficult to make out her words. "He . . . he called me in to say goodbye. He told me . . . told me he was glad we met that day, all those years ago, and he wouldn't trade all our good times for anything," Bulma made a futile attempt to wipe her eyes, and her expression was more haunted than ChiChi had ever seen. "He really is dying . . . I've never heard Son so resigned to death. It's like he's waiting for it to happen!"
Bulma broke down then, the tears gushing from her eyes as though a dam had crumbled somewhere in her mind. ChiChi forced herself to stop crying, and she put her arms around her friend and hugged her, patting the older woman's hair and letting her vent her emotions. "He wants to see Kuririn," Bulma managed to choke out through her sobs.
The small, bald ex-monk jumped to his feet, looking as apprehensive as if someone had asked him to fire a Kamehameha at himself. He was already in tears, his eyes red from continual crying. ChiChi didn't think he had slept for even five minutes. "I don't think I can do it," he declared, voice trembling. "Goku's my best friend . . . how can I just walk in there and watch him . . . watch him die?"
Again, ChiChi forced herself to be the strong one. "It would be worse if you didn't, wouldn't it? If you don't go say goodbye to him, you'll regret it for the rest of your life."
Kuririn hung his head, and his shoulders shook as tears dropped from his eyes to splash on the tile floor. "You're right," standing up straight, Kuririn marched into Goku's room.
ChiChi continued to hold Bulma, though it took every ounce of restraint she had not to burst into tears herself. It was her husband in there, and he was asking everyone else in to say his goodbyes. Would he talk to her at all?
She glanced around the room, at the solemn, tear-stained faces. Yamucha was there, standing with Tenshinhan and Chaozu, all three trying their very best to be strong. Tenshinhan was the only one who succeeded, but even his rock-solid expression was betrayed by the flicker of emotion in his eyes. Yamucha was crying steadily, but he was trying to hide it by swiping at his eyes with his sleeve every few minutes. Master Rôshi, Oolong, and Pu'ar didn't even try to disguise their emotion. Piccolo stayed sheltering Gohan, and only ChiChi's long experience with the Nameksejin allowed her to locate the sadness on his face. Not much -- so little, in fact, that ChiChi had to look more than once to make sure she saw it, but she was certain it was there.
Vegeta stood in a far end of the room, facing the corner, not allowing anyone to see his expression. His body was stiff, arms crossed in his usual arrogant stance, but ChiChi could hear him muttering softly. "Don't you dare die, Kakkarot," Vegeta was hissing venomously, "You're the only other Saiyajin left. I won't let our race die out -- not from an insignificant virus! I won't. I won't!"
After Kuririn, the others were called in one by one, and one by one they left, until only Gohan and Vegeta remained. Bulma had managed to gain control of herself, and she and ChiChi sat together, staring at the door, gripping each other's hands tightly. At last Piccolo returned, and the scowl on his face had softened so it was almost nonexistent. "Vegeta," was all he said, before returning to his post by Gohan.
The Saiyajin stalked confidently into the room, but ChiChi could see just the faintest detectable falter in his proud step. Suddenly, everything seemed to crash down on her at once, and ChiChi felt the rivulets of water beginning to cascade down her cheeks once more. Bulma noticed, and this time it was her time to hug ChiChi. "It isn't fair," ChiChi sobbed. "After everything we've been through together . . . all these years of marriage, having a child . . . Goku won't even talk to me! You'd think, after all I've tried to give him, that Goku would . . . would at least say goodbye . . ."
Bulma squeezed her shoulders, though she couldn't muster up much confidence in her voice when she replied, "I'm sure he's just waiting to speak to you last, that's all. He probably has something special to say."
ChiChi nodded brokenly, not noticing the worried look on her friend's face as she wiped her eyes. "This is silly," she admonished herself, "My Goku is . . . dying, and here I am upset over who he says goodbye to first!"
"It's only natural," Bulma soothed her, "Just have a good cry. It should help a little."
Around ten minutes later, the door to Goku's room slid open and Vegeta walked out, clearly shaken. The aloof expression was still in place upon his features, but his walk had more than a slight tremble to it and his hands, clenched in fists at his sides, were tightening spasmodically. He marched straight past everyone without pausing, but as he passed by Bulma his hand rested on her shoulder for a second in a gesture for her to come with him. Bulma glanced up at him and saw to her surprise that his onyx eyes were glistening. Giving ChiChi one last reassuring hug, Bulma stood and left.
"Your turn, brat," Vegeta called over his shoulder, then he, too, was gone.
Gohan gulped, and he looked up at Piccolo as he stood uncertainly. The Nameksejin let a hand fall to rest on Gohan's head, conveying his silent support, and the small boy squared his shoulders as he walked away. ChiChi watched him go, feeling her heart break as her only son tried with all his might to be grown up. "My poor little boy," she whispered.
"Like it or not, he has to be a man now," Piccolo spoke up for the first time since he'd arrived. "He knows it, too."
"I know," ChiChi's voice caught in her throat, and she pressed a hand to her heart in anguish. "But man or not, he's still my baby . . ."
It was a long time before Gohan reappeared, and his conversation with his dwindling father had taken its toll on him. He stumbled back into the room, collapsing in a heap of tears at Piccolo's feet, and no one was able to make any sense of him. ChiChi knelt by his side and pulled him into her lap, trying to calm him, but it was still almost ten minutes before he could stop sobbing. At last Piccolo put a hand on his shoulder and shook him lightly, and the demi-Saiyajin gasped for air and spoke.
"He's sleeping now," Gohan declared, his small chest heaving with the force of his crying. "He said goodbye, then he fell asleep . . . he's not dead, I would know, but he's not awake. I tried talking to him, but he couldn't hear me."
ChiChi felt as though someone had ripped her heart from her chest and was holding it in front of her. "Did he ask for me?" she inquired softly, only just daring to hope.
Gohan paused, then slowly shook his head. "No, Mommy . . . I'm sorry."
ChiChi swallowed hard. Gohan had seen her cry enough . . . she had to at least pretend to be strong, for his sake. "That's all right, Gohan. Come on, we'll have supper."
In his darkened bedroom, Goku tossed and turned restlessly, trapped in the void between consciousness and unconsciousness. His face was twisted with pain, and he clutched at his chest as he thrashed about on his sleeping pallet. If only . . . if only he could speak . . . "ChiChi ..." he cried desperately, rising up from the mattress for a few moments, then collapsing from the effort of getting the words out. "ChiChi!"
But no one heard him, and no one answered his plea.
After supper was finished, ChiChi picked up Gohan and carried him in her arms to his room. The boy curled up against her chest, still weeping softly, and ChiChi kissed his forehead as she tucked him into bed. "I'll stay with Daddy," she promised. "If anything happens, I'll call you."
Gohan nodded, his small face framed by his dark hair, the covers pulled up to his chin. In the dimming light he looked like a baby again, and ChiChi's heart went out to him. He was too young to have to face this . . . but then, what was the cutoff age? She petted his forehead, then glanced over at Piccolo. The Nameksejin stood by the bedside, and he nodded once at ChiChi, indicating he would stay with Gohan. ChiChi smiled her thanks, then kissed Gohan's cheek and walked out.
She returned to her bedroom immediately, and sure enough Goku was still sleeping soundly. She sighed softly as she flicked the lights to dim, wondering what she'd thought she would find. Goku sitting up in bed waiting for her? Don't be stupid, ChiChi, she reprimanded herself.
ChiChi removed the compress from Goku's forehead, noting with a lump in her throat how warm to the touch her husband's face was. It truly could not be long now . . . choking back a whimper, ChiChi dipped the cloth in the pail of water and placed it on Goku's forehead once more. "I love you so," she told him, feeling her heart beginning to split in two, "Even if you aren't thinking of me, I'll miss you forever."
Unexpectedly Goku began to shiver uncontrollably, going so far that his teeth actually chattered. "C-cold," he whispered, making ChiChi jump. "S-so ... cold ..."
"Goku? Are you awake?" ChiChi asked, hoping against all hope that maybe now he would speak to her. But Goku merely shuddered and lapsed into silence once more.
She removed the cloth and felt his forehead, and was shocked to discover that within minutes his skin had gone from burning hot to cold and clammy. ChiChi took his hand in hers, and was nearly frightened out of her wits to find it ice-cold. Not knowing what else to do, ChiChi climbed into bed beside him and put her arms around his unconscious form, drawing Goku to her and trying to keep him warm. Gradually his tremors ceased, and his breathing evened out.
Again ChiChi was foolish enough to wonder whether or not Goku would hug her back, but of course he could not. Blinking back tears, ChiChi placed her head on Goku's heaving chest and forced herself to fall asleep.
The world consisted entirely of pain and darkness, but especially pain. Every movement -- whether it was his heart pumping blood or his lungs labouring to draw in another lung ful of life-giving air -- was torture. Goku battled harder than he'd ever fought before, to come out of unconsciousness, to speak to the person he loved most in the entire world.
His body felt as heavy as if it was encased with lead, from his head down even to his toes. The warrior struggled, but the only movements his body allowed him were the spasmodic clutching at his chest and the agonized thrashing of his legs. He moaned with pain, and even that small movement tore at him like a thousand ki blasts.
One arm shuddered, began to shake uncontrollably, as Goku competed with the pain to move, to put his arm around the slender form lying beside him. He put all his efforts into the motion -- every ounce of his tremendous, Super Saiyajin strength, the force that had allowed him to defeat the Saiyajins and Furiza -- but finally let his arm drop the few inches back to his side with a small, frustrated sigh. His hand clenched the blanket that covered him, its death-like grip the only strength he possessed. His body, once a weapon and an ally, had now become his worst enemy.
Goku drew in another fire-filled breath, knowing he didn't have long. Even now the seconds ticked by like hours, signalling his death was approaching. Yet, perhaps there was hope. He had managed to say her name before, though she had not been present. Now, with her so close to him, surely she would hear.
He rallied his strength -- if it could still be called such -- and focussed all his energy to his voice. "ChiChi!" he shouted . . . or rather, tried to. What came from his larynx was a depressingly soft sound, barely even qualified enough to be called a whisper.
"Ch-Chi..Chi ..." he pleaded, praying with every fibre still operable within him that she would hear. "ChiChi ... please ... wake up ..."
She stirred, and the faintest fluttering of hope began to fly in Goku's dying heart. But no, she merely sighed in her sleep and settled back down. Goku tried to clench his teeth, but even this effort was beyond him and he abandoned it. Well, then. If he could not reach her ears, perhaps he could touch her spirit. Husband and wife shared a bond -- his only hope was that somehow she would know what he said.
"Chi..Chi ..." Goku gasped, and it was utter agony merely to speak, but he forced himself to continue. "Th..ank you ... for ... taking care ... of ... me ..."
Again ChiChi shifted in her sleep, and Goku would have smiled had he possessed the strength to do so. She must have heard him, somewhere in her heart. This gave him the will to continue. "I'm ... sor..ry ... had to ... end ... this ... way ..." Goku's eyes closed, and despite the fact that he strained every muscle in his body, he could not get them to open again.
Once more Goku fought to touch her, and this time his hand moved a few inches from his chest toward her shoulder . . . but then his illness realized what he was doing and sent an enormous spasm of pain through his heart, so much that Goku cried out. Still ChiChi did not wake.
Goku knew then that any attempts at movement were impossible. He could feel the life force literally slipping from him, like he was a sieve filled with sand and the grains were slowly draining away. "Ch..iChi ..." the words were scarcely higher than the softest spring breeze now. "I ... l-lo..........................."
The only sound in the room now was that of ChiChi's quiet breathing.
It was the cold that woke her. ChiChi shivered, and immediately drew closer to Goku, thinking to warm him -- but it was then that she realized the lack of heat came from the body beside her. Sitting bolt upright, sending the blankets in wild disarray, ChiChi looked down at the form of her husband; touched his face, his hands, felt for a pulse in three different spots on his body.
Wherever she touched was cold and stiff. There was no life left in him -- even without the ability to sense energy, ChiChi knew. The bond they had shared was broken.
The tears spilled from her brown eyes as ChiChi bent over him and pressed her lips to his in one final act of love and sorrow. Afterward she flung herself on his chest, weeping uncontrollably. "Goku . . ." she sobbed, "You didn't even say goodbye . . ."
In heaven, a spectral form reached out a plaintive hand. "ChiChi," he called, desperately, but of course she did not hear.