Chapter 1: Not ready to accept
It was a fine mess he had found himself in.
Gohan Son, age 11 and currently the strongest hope of survival the Earth and the universe in general had, was trapped in a lethal standstill. His left arm was all but useless, hanging lifelessly by his side after he had leaped in to intercept a ki beam that would have killed one of his friends. Not that Vegeta, the prince of all Saiyans, considered himself as anybody's friend; it was the principle of the thing.
The half-Saiyan's other arm was extended forward, his hand pouring absurd amounts of life energy into an attack that would later be dubbed a one-handed KameHameHa. On the other side of the giant blast stood the current bane of the universe, the bio-android Cell. The green-skinned menace had run out of petty taunts for some time now and was very busy channelling an equal but opposite amount of energy from his side.
None of the opponents had any illusions about what would happen to the loser of this reverse game of tug. They had been at it for some time now, after all, and the amount of energy suspended between them was greater than both, enough to disrupt the sun itself. Cell had no hope to regenerate from complete disintegration, Gohan's Super Saiyan 2 powers would be snuffed like a candle in a hurricane and none of them would have time to evade. The clash of attacks was so close to the combatants, not even Instant Transmission would work.
They were already using everything they had. Cell had just blasted away the rest of the Z-fighters, mere flies aiming to distract him, and was thanking the fates Gohan could only use one arm. Said Demi-Saiyan had heard his recently deceased father's voice and had stopped holding back. And yet they were equal. The two opposite blasts were met in the exact middle, each trying to swallow the other and both failing spectacularly.
Gohan's mind couldn't help but race. 'This is hopeless. Any time now, this huge ball of ki will become more than either of us can control. I can already feel Cell's will sliding and I'm not exactly getting any sharper. If this thing blows up here, it will take the solar system with it. Not even Cell will survive. I guess in the end, I just wasn't strong enough.'
'Or you can just buckle down, shoot more power and quit this embarrassing, self-defeating whining.'
Gohan blinked at the foreign voice in his head, then looked around him incredulously. Instead of the battered battlefield he had expected to see, he found himself inside the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. He could barely see the entrance against the mind-numbing white horizon and nothing else. No Cell, no energy blast duel or imminent death.
"Wh… what?" he asked dumbly, not really expecting an answer.
"I'm standing behind you," dead-panned a second voice, one he somehow knew even though he hadn't heard before.
The Demi-Saiyan swiftly turned around, but fell out of his automatically assumed battle stance when he saw none other but a mirror image of himself, ascended in his Super Saiyan 2 form. "Wow, I do look bad-ass," he exclaimed, promptly bringing his hand to cover his mouth. He half-expected his mother to appear and whack him on the spot. After a while, when a painful pan blow failed to be delivered, he turned his eyes on his double.
The doppelganger endured under the searching gaze for a while, then sighed. "You can at least try to guess who I am."
Gohan quirked a brow at that. "You aren't real, which means this place is inside my mind. I can still sense my energy being used to sustain the blast, although time seems to pass much slower here. That would explain the cheap background," he commented thoughtfully.
The clone crossed his arms and nodded. "I didn't expect anything less from you. This will make things easier."
The Demi-Saiyan continued. "I'm sure you aren't a product of outside influence, therefore you're a part of me. But why choose this particular moment to emerge?"
The other Gohan sighed, apparently a bit uncomfortable. "Believe me, I didn't really want to. It seems though we'll be needing all the help we can get against that damn overgrown grasshopper. As for me, you can just say I'm your Saiyan side."
The first Gohan blinked. "My Saiyan side?" he echoed.
"Well, not exactly. More like your warrior side that has been developed through your Saiyan instincts. Most of your innate powers, including the Legendary transformations, are tied to me," explained the other. "In other words, the part of you you lock away and ignore when no psychotic maniacs are loose."
Gohan cringed a bit at the accusing tone. "Will it make it better if I apologize?" he asked meekly.
The other one rolled his eyes. "It's yourself you should apologize to. Apologize for all the guilt-tripping you've been needlessly doing."
The self-proclaimed Saiyan side sighed again. "There are two major activities defining our life. Learning and training. You learn, not only because of mum, but because you crave knowledge. Yet, you feel guilty because you aren't training. You train, not only because of dad, but because you like being strong and you enjoy the excitement and the power. Yet, you feel guilty because you aren't learning."
Gohan thought about that for a while, then slapped a hand to his face. "Great. I'm subconsciously psychoanalysing myself amidst mortal combat against a cockroach on steroids."
His other self nodded, apparently happy with himself. "Isn't that great? We're that good! In fact, that's what you must accept. Knowledge and power aren't mutually exclusive. We're extremely good at amassing and using both. We must stop trying to choose one of them. You must embrace both. We're mighty like that."
Gohan frowned at the bold words, his visage darkening. "That's the kind of thinking we had when we ascended twice, some minutes ago. That's the kind of thinking that killed dad," he snarled, very upset.
His other part mirrored his expression. "You just had to go and say something stupid, didn't you? Naive fool, it's because you reject part of your nature that you lost control. How do you expect to reign such huge power without a warrior's discipline and mindset? You were so overwhelmed, the power got to your head. Dad would have been alive if you didn't. Constantly. Push me back!" His eyes softened a bit at the other's crestfallen visage. "We can still use the Namekian Dragonballs to wish dad back. Dende will be happy to let us talk to Elder Moori."
Gohan brightened a bit. "I forgot about that, you're right," he replied, then stared questioningly as the other Gohan offered him his hand.
"Join with me. We can bring no one back unless we waste Cell and you need a clearer mind to prevail."
Gohan hesitated. "This will change me," he stated. "This is almost like Namekian fusion."
The doppelganger smirked a very Saiyan smirk. "It's ironic in a way. Suffering from some racial-based multiple personality disorder. I knew studying psychology wasn't a waste of time." He sombered when he noticed his counterpart's intensity. "We'll still be you. Perhaps you'll be less afraid to fight and less afraid to win. Saiyans are a confident species, after all. There will be other differences as well, some of them not pretty. In the end, it's your choice. You're the dominant part, after all."
The Demi-Saiyan gulped. "One last question. Why now? We've faced the possibility for total defeat before."
The other one nodded. "By staying so long in the first Super Saiyan level, you allowed me to come closer to the surface. And of course, we really need this now. We're strong enough to match Cell but not strong enough to overpower him. Our union will change that. It'll give us the will that compliments the power."
Gohan closed his eyes in contemplation for a bit. When he opened them again, he was smiling. "So be it then," he announced, clasping the offered hand.
Cell was starting to get desperate. He was well aware his control over the energy wave was diminishing, slowly but surely. You didn't need to be a genius to tell what would eventually happen, really. "I won't lose," he muttered. "I am perfection; I can't lose!" His private pep talk was interrupted when his superior hearing arrested three different voices.
"BIG BANG ATTACK!"
"Do it now son!"
"So be it then."
First came a sharp pain on his back, as Vegeta's blast reached him. Cell's feeling of impending doom became harsh reality a second later, when his opponent's power level jumped yet again. It was not really substantial compared to their actual power, nothing more than a straw of additional energy.
Still, it was the straw that broke the grasshopper's back…
Cell's screams of defiance hardly helped him, as every last cell of his body was caught into the mighty mass of power and soundly disintegrated. The combined energy of their KameHameHas washed over and through him and Gohan had to use every last bit of willpower to slowly, narrowly, steer it off the planet. A part of him felt guilty for anything it might encounter in space.
Silence dominated the barren landscape, everybody present standing very still, extending their senses to make absolutely sure there was no hostile ki signature left.
"It's done," exclaimed Gohan, his words laced with an overwhelming amount of relief and weariness. Completely spent, he collapsed to the ground, his hair returning to its original black colour as his grasp over his powers failed him. He started chuckling weakly, falling into a semi-unconscious state, vaguely aware of someone picking him up.
Gohan landed, then stopped moving, glancing at the cozy little house he called home. He could feel his mother's ki inside, as well as the residual energy of his grandfather and Baba. These two had apparently left not too long ago.
After the day's events, the evening around him was way too peaceful to seem true. The exact opposite of the maelstrom raging in his mind. Despite putting up a strong front on the Lookout, he wasn't really sure what to think. Some part of him told him he should resent his father for his decision, perhaps even hate him. He found he was unable to associate hatred with his father. The man was a saint through and through, albeit a somewhat naive one. What he did feel was anger. His no-longer-dormant Saiyan side demanded he blamed someone or something for the wrongs of the universe. Another part of him wondered whether he had done something horrible to push his father away. He viciously ripped that particular thought and catapulted it into the deepest parts of his mind. As for his guilt, it was being beaten up by rational thought. Goku had had a chance to return and had rejected it.
Gohan gulped and privately called himself a coward. Despite being completely healed by Dende, he still felt tired, if only mentally. The warrior inside him was sated, but the child was lonely, yearning for his mother's touch. However, he wasn't sure how to deliver the news. For all of Chichi's nagging, she loved her husband dearly.
He took a single step forward. "Great, just great," he muttered. "At this rate, I'll be in time for my next birthday."
As on cue, the door opened and a familiar figure emerged. The princess of the Ox kingdom peered through the darkness, her eyes meeting her child and widening. The rest was pure reflex. The two of them met in the middle, gasping and sharing a bone-crashing embrace.
"Thank the gods you are safe! I was so very worried. We watched everything through Baba's crystal ball, and I thought you were going to die, and I'm so happy you are unharmed, is your arm okay? Bless Dende's soul for healing you. What a pity he can't eat food because I wanted to thank him, and I couldn't think of any other ways, and it's so good you are back!" Chichi was very aware she was babbling incessantly and she couldn't care less. She did stop, however, when she felt Gohan's grip slackening. She didn't need to be a psychic to read his plummeting mood.
Gohan saw the question in her eyes as she held him at arm's length. "Mom, Daddy won't be… I mean he isn't…" he tried, dreading each word.
His mother hugged him again, letting a bittersweet sigh. "I know dear. I watched and heard the whole thing. I can't say I was too surprised. Goku is a very quirky man." She sobered down before the next sentence. "I want you to promise me you won't feel guilty about what happened, Gohan. Your father's choices are his and his alone." When her son failed to offer an affirmative, she sighed again, then smiled. "There is a large pile of food for my little warrior inside," she teased, deciding to subtly let him know that for all her bitching, she still acknowledged his strength and valued his desires. Without Goku around, she would have to play that part too.
Gohan's only answer was a thunderous roar, as his stomach decided to challenge the universe. They both laughed at that, inwardly happy they were still capable of mirth, even without their gentle Saiyan. As the demi-Saiyan started eating with restrained -for him- fervor, his eyes kept turning towards his mother. At first, he thought it was because of her valiant attempt to refrain from collapsing in tears. He correctly assumed his mother had been reduced to hysterics in front of her father, but had stopped doing so for Gohan's benefit.
However, he soon realized there was something else bothering him, a faint feeling at the edge of his senses. "Mom, have you been working out lately?" he asked out of the blue.
Chichi blinked, not sure how to answer that. "I never stopped working out, even if I never train like I used to. Why do you ask?"
Gohan eyed his mother fully, his eyes narrowing and searching for something he could apparently not see. "Your ki feels different, perhaps a bit stronger", he replied at length, squinting while he sharply focused his senses. His mother's ki was usually pretty distinct compared to 'normal' humans, like Venus compared to the rest of the stars. Quite brighter, but not overwhelmingly so. This time, however, he could feel something more, a different kind of ki. A ki, he realized in wonder, that was very similar to his own.
His eyes shot open in realization. Unlike many eleven-year-olds, Gohan had amassed a great deal of knowledge and that included biology studies, too. He might have been a touch naive at times, but he was certainly not ignorant. Now, he only had to deliver the news.
Piece of cake...
"You... you really missed dad while he was sick, didn't you?" he started hesitantly, causing Chichi to blink. "I know dad missed you a lot. We did spend a year training, even though it was only a day out here."
Chichi raised a brow. "What are you trying to tell me, Gohan?"
The demi-Saiyan's face went rosy as he tried to find another approach. "You know how I can sense the ki of living things, don't you? If I concentrate enough, I can pinpoint the exact location of anything alive, no matter how small it is."
His mother's second brow joined the first. "You know you can tell me anything, don't you, dear. I promise I won't get mad," she stated cluelessly.
By now, Gohan was fidgeting badly, his skin a beetroot kind of red, his eyes looking everywhere but at his mother. "What I'm trying to say is that in nine months, I'll stop being an only child," he whispered.
Chichi inhaled a big gulp of air. "Gohan, are you telling me you think I'm pregnant?"
He turned to look at her, his face sporting a weak smile. "I don't exactly think you are, I'm certain you are. It's only a week or so old, but I can already tell," he answered timidly.
"That's... nice," she managed, mirroring his expression. "We won't be getting bored either," she added, promptly fainting afterwards.
Gohan caught her easily, dreading but expecting such a reaction. After depositing her in her room, he turned and glared upwards. "If you think I'm simply going to accept you staying away from us, you have another thing coming, dad," he muttered, determination welling inside him.
Gohan yawned widely and stretched, reveling in the feeling of a sunbeam that had gently woken him up. He stared at the familiar ceiling for a while, relieved that no nightmare had assaulted him during his rest. He could tell Chichi was still sleeping and would be staying so for a while. He knew first hand how watching a fight helplessly could be more draining than actually fighting.
He let his senses extend further, searching for every familiar ki. Vegeta was already up and training in the GR-no surprises there. Bulma, her parents, Trunks and his alternate self were still asleep, even though it was only evening in West City, as was everybody staying at Kame house. Piccolo and Dende were meditating on the Lookout. He frowned as he instinctively searched for his father's ki and found nothing, but then smiled a bit. He could feel the energy of the plain simple humans all over the planet and, for the first time since Cell's announcement, they were mostly calm instead of anxious.
Leaving his bed and dressing in his favorite Piccolo fashion, he quickly prepared a light -relatively- breakfast. Between his superspeed, his ki and his appetite he was done in minutes. Staying a year with only his father had forced him to become culinary adept. After writing a note to prevent his mother from freaking out too much, he stepped outside and took to the air.
The day was bright, as if the planet was celebrating Cell's demise. He just had to embrace the cheerfulness, feeling guilty at first, but soon remembering his parents' words. With little thought, he ascended to the first Super Saiyan level, drinking in the intense surge of power. He then hesitated. Would he lose himself if he were to try to ascend again?
His other self's words returned to his mind. 'You were so overwhelmed, the power got to your head. Dad would have been alive if you didn't constantly push me back!'
Gritting his teeth, he concentrated, breaking through the second barrier in his mind. His teal eyes turned just a bit greener, his golden hair just a bit brighter and longer and his power skyrocketed. The golden aura raged around him as he fought for control, lightning bolts dancing all over. Then, after what seemed like an hour but was mere seconds, he closed his eyes and sighed. The tension left his body, the corona of power dissipated and he opened his eyes again, now smiling. It was not the sadistic smirk that had intimidated Cell, but rather the smile of a child after a job well done.
"The second time was so easy," he muttered to himself. "So easy to retain control. If only I had done this while training. I know I was very close inside the Time Chamber. If only I hadn't been afraid..." He wiped his tears, watching as they promptly vaporized from the back of his hand. Even without his aura, he had to be careful not to destroy everything around him.
"The first step to mastering a new power is to test its limits," he stated, remembering his first mentor's teachings. He started flying through the air, first slowly, then gradually picking up speed. Soon, he had to expend energy to prevent the otherwise inevitable sonic booms his speed would result. He zipped right above green plains and dense forests, dodging treetops in glee. Spying a lake before him, he took a fast dip, letting the water glide around him and creating towering waves in his wake. He then rose higher, flaring his aura to dry his body and clothes. He soon reached full speed, absently conjuring a ki barrier to protect his eyes, the world blurring around him.
After circling the Earth a few dozen times, he was ready to admit to himself he was having the time of his life.
Piccolo and Dende opened their eyes at the same time, looking at each other meaningfully. The young Guardian was beaming happily, while his mentor was smirking.
"He is so fast!" marveled the tiny healer in awe.
Piccolo nodded. "He is setting new records alright. Fifty seconds to loop around the Earth. It is fortunate he feels good enough to do that. I was afraid he would be hesitant to use his powers after Goku's... departure."
"Hang in there, Gohan. We are still here for you," whispered the tiny Namekian.
Vegeta frowned, stopping in mid-punch. The gravity room around him was humming ominously, but even at his base form he could still endure 500 times gravity easily. Ignoring the intense weight of his body, he glared ahead.
"Show-off hybrid," he huffed exasperated before resuming his training. He would catch up, no matter the cost. He now had two rivals to compete with and despite the blow to his pride, his blood was boiling with excitement and determination.
Gohan stopped in midair as he sensed a commotion below him. Levitating above Orange Star City, he snuffed his aura and slowly descended. Large masses of people were gathered on and around the city's central plaza, packed like sardines and filling each and every road in his vision. In the center of the plaza stood a raised platform, framed by hundreds of cameras and speakers.
A lone man was in the middle of the platform, his gruff voice reverberating. "... and then, after all these pitiful tricksters had run out of mirrors, they begged me to come forward and save their behinds. Cell was already trembling when I leaped on the stage once more. Obviously, he was still crippled from my first attack and knew he was doomed."
The demi-Saiyan's eyes narrowed at that, for he had recognized the man. It wasn't difficult to connect the dots and realize Hercule Satan was claiming to have defeated the bio-android. While Gohan didn't really care about fame, he was appalled at the way the shameless idiot was insulting his friends and family, especially his now dead father. He gritted his teeth, clenching his fists with planet-shattering power. He should go down there and rip the man into ribbons before the whole world. Show everybody what a fraud looked like inside-out.
Gohan let a breath he didn't know he was holding, finally gaining control over his Saiyan instincts. Instead of being mortified at the brutal thoughts, he felt satisfied he was in control. He decided Hercule didn't really deserve his wrath. The man was puny and harmless after all.
A mischievous smile graced his face. He had thought of a way to appease both his human and his Saiyan sides. He wouldn't hurt the 'saviour' physically. After all, there were much funnier ways to get some payback.
Cell (perfect 50 percent): 700,000,000
Cell (perfect 100 percent): 1,400,000,000
Cell (perfect + buff 150 percent): 2,100,000,000
Cell (super perfect): 2,700,000,000
Goku ssj: 350,000,000
Goku ssj (powered up): 700,000,000
Vegeta ssj: 275,000,000
Vegeta ssj (powered up): 550,000,000
Gohan ssj: 450,000,000
Gohan ssj (powered up): 900,000,000
Gohan ssj2: 3,600,000,000
Gohan ssj2 (injured 75 percent): 2,700,000,000
Gohan (Dende heal): 10,000,000
Gohan ssj: 500,000,000
Gohan ssj (powered up): 1,000,000,000
Gohan ssj2: 4,000,000,000
Vegeta (senzu heal): 6,500,000
Vegeta ssj: 325,000,000
Vegeta ssj (powered up): 650,000,000
Piccolo (with weights): 350,000,000
Goten (in vivo): 50
A/N: Starting this story is probably an indication of how fickle I can get. While I have a lot of words under my belt, this is the first time I try writing in the dragonball category. If this story attracts enough attention, I'll probably update soon. The power levels I calculated them myself, starting from 12,000,000 which is Frieza's max power, and doing a lot of speculation. If you believe his PL was actually 120,000,000 (This isn't even the highest I have seen) just add another zero to the large numbers above. This story will not follow the original timeline beyond the Cell games, although many events will still happen. Before you ask, I'm not yet sure what to do with Videl. She will appear, and much earlier than you might expect, although I have yet to decide on the pairings, if any.