Disclaimer: I'm not even taking credit for the stupid title pun.
Rating: PG-13 ( T ) – For mildly naughty language and a hefty dose of antagonism.
Spoilers: Erasa isn't a natural blonde! Le gasp!
Summary: ThreeShot. When Erasa discovers Gohan's secret identity as Saiyaman, she has a few...conditions. Pre-Blackmail, GhVi, NO GhE.
And now! The conclusion to our nail-biting mystery...(finally).
Part Three: Pigtails
"...llo, Son Resi..."
"...hat time it...oung lad...?"
"...orry to...all so...late...gency..."
Erasa winced as the voices in her head were overtaken by white noise. Her brain seemed to want to throb in rhythm with the grating crackle, causing her gray matter to spasm erratically against the inside of her skull. It was safe to say that she'd never had a headache this bad in her entire life.
Erasa's head, heavy as it was under the cloud of drugs, perked up at the sound of a familiar voice. Gohan?
"Gohan-kun, is that you?"
Now Erasa was really excited. "V...Videl-chan...?" she muttered aloud hopefully.
"V-Videl-san? I didn't think you were speaking to me after – "
"Forget that," Videl interrupted in her impatient way. "Have you seen Erasa-chan since she left school today?"
Gohan's bashful tone changed instantly to one of a strong, serious nature. "No. Is she okay?"
"I don't know. She's been missing all afternoon and her keys and purse were found in the school parking lot."
Erasa's eyelids ripped apart so quickly that she felt a couple lashes uproot themselves. "I'm...missing?"
"HEY!" a loud, gravely voice shouted at her, drowning out the sound of her friends' conversation. "Shut up over there! Don't make me dose you again."
Erasa swiveled her blurry eyes around the room and took in her surroundings, panic rising like bile in her throat at everything she saw. She was in some kind of basement – dingy and dark with no windows to speak of – with a small crowd of men. One, two, three, four...about seven of them in all.
One of them, the one that was threatening her with hand gestures to be quiet, was dressed in all black. His sweater, his pants, his shoes...even the ski cap bunched up on his head was a deep shade of noir. Erasa had a high suspicion that he smelled like cigarettes and kept needles in his pocket.
Apparently under the impression that his hostage had gotten the gist of his message, the man in black turned around to face contraption that held his pals enraptured. They were all clustered around this thing and seemed to be listening intently to it. When Erasa leaned over to get a better view around the backside of a particularly rotund criminal, she discovered that it was some kind of two-way radio.
A voice emerged from the device now that the din between Erasa and her captor had died down. It was Gohan! "...and she hasn't been home?"
Videl's voice replied quickly, "No...that's how I realized she was missing. I called her house to yell at her for...well, you know...and they told me that they hadn't seen her all afternoon. I tried her cell next, but nothing. I even attempted contact through the communicator watch I'd gotten her for Christmas last year – which she practically never carries with her, by the way – and she wouldn't answer any of them. That's when I went to see if her car was still at the school and found her purse and keys. I was kind of hoping that she was with you..."
"No, I haven't seen her," Gohan said, pausing. After a few seconds of electronic crackling, he continued, "Have you tried that coffee shop that she likes? She said something about it earlier..."
"I've looked everywhere. The school, her favorite hang out spots – "
"Did you check the school roof?"
"Knowing that she'd been hanging out with you, yeah. I was kinda hoping that you were up there showing her your underwear."
Gohan's voice sounded tight and a little higher in pitch when he replied, "I already explained about that! I never – "
Erasa's team of kidnappers guffawed stupidly at Gohan's distress, drowning out half of Videl's answer. Erasa shushed them harshly and, surprisingly, they obeyed in time to hear, "...orry, I just...I get a little sarcastic when I'm wound up. I can't help it."
There was another extended silence on the line. All the men leaned in closer to the radio, listening intently for any sounds. Erasa, too, was compelled to inch closer; the chair that her arms and torso were strapped to squealed against the concrete floor, earning her a shush of her own. When she was within three feet of the device, squeezed into a small space between two of her captors, she stopped and began straining her ears for sound.
"Augh!" the men yelled, leaning away from the radio as a metallic squeal rent the silence. One of them had the presence of mind to bop the thing hard, thus restoring their regularly scheduled programming.
"...ook, don't screw with me right now. I'm asking you, as a friend, to cut the bullshit and help me here." Videl's voice commanded snippily. Erasa could tell that her frustration was mounting. "I think we both know who and what you are. You can either help me find our friend, or you can keep up this pathetic lie that nobody believes anymore. Which will it be?"
The hefty whoosh of a sigh could be heard on the line; Erasa could almost picture Gohan standing there with the phone to his ear and his free hand to his neck as he replied, "You're right. There's no point in hiding it anymore..."
Suddenly, Erasa felt the thrill of panic again. He wasn't about to confess his secret, was he? In front of all these goons with an ax to grind? With the will to save her friend in mind, Erasa struggled valiantly against her bindings.
"I should have told you a long time ago...I hated lying to you."
Erasa pulled hard at the knots shackling her wrists together, wriggling so hard that warm blood began to drip down her palms. She had to keep them from hearing, she just had to!
"Hey, shut up," one of the criminals scolded, nudging her chair roughly with his elbow. Erasa squealed and kicked her legs out to balance herself as she began to topple over. Luckily, she was able to put herself right and –
That was it!
"I...I'm Saiy – KZZKT!"
With a high kick that would make any cheerleading coach proud, Erasa sent the radio flying across the short room and into the opposite wall where it obediently smashed itself into itty-bitty pieces. Goal!
"What the hell?"
Uh-oh...Somehow, Erasa hadn't counted on the room full of angry kidnappers wanting revenge. She gulped and raised her eyes to look at the swarm of faces grouped around her in a ring. "S-Sorry?" she stuttered, offering them a weak apologetic smile.
They weren't buying it.
"Little Girl, you've just bitten off more than you can chew," one of them – a hefty tub of lard sporting a goatee and a bowler hat – informed her, cracking his knuckles for effect.
"Oh, yeah," one of his companions – skinny, almost anorexically so, with a huge, bird-like nose – seconded. "'Cuz now we can't listen in to see when that little crime fightin' friend 'o yers is comin'. We're gonna have tuh teach ya a lesson fer that one."
As they closed in on her, each face more menacing than the last, Erasa squeezed her eyes shut tight and waited for it to be over.
000 000 000
"Erasa! Erasa-chan, wake up," someone pestered insistently. Each word was accompanied by a sharp slap to the cheek and the sting of well meaning abuse.
Unwillingly, Erasa peeled her eyes open to confront her attacker. Her blurred surroundings came slowly into focus and her best friend's face, tight and stern with worry, was revealed to her. "V-Videl-chan...?"
Videl's eyes shined with what Erasa cautiously suspected were tears at her reply. The darker-haired girl lowered her face for a moment, her tangled and knotted bangs obscuring her eyes from view, before muttering, "Thank gods..." The profession of gratitude toward the unseen deities was accompanied by a subtle sniffle.
Quickly reigning her emotions back in, Videl raised her gaze to meet Erasa's once again, her eyelashes significantly damp. It was at this point that the blonde noticed the unkempt state of her friend's appearance; the dark, purple-ish rings below her eyes seemed to suggest that Videl hadn't slept in days and the tangled, greasy state of her hair – for once unbound and flowing around her shoulders – seemed to imply that she hadn't had a shower recently, either. Her clothes – Egads! Her clothes! – were ripped, shredded and stained beyond the point of true recognition, but they rather looked like the ones she had been wearing the last time Erasa had seen her. All-in-all, it looked like she'd been wallowing around in a landfill for a week.
"Are you okay?" Erasa couldn't help asking, despite the dull throb that was rhythmically pressing against the backs of her own eyeballs.
Videl, surprisingly, laughed a little at her and more tears emerged into the chill air. "Trust me, you look worse than I do. Can you move?"
Erasa dutifully stirred her reluctant muscles into motion, strongly regretting every stretch and pull that this required. She pushed herself into a sitting position, aided dutifully by Videl, and declared herself sore, but otherwise unhurt.
"What about your leg?" Videl queried, flicking her gaze down her right side.
Erasa followed her friend's line of sight and experienced a crashing wave of nausea at what she found. Her leg was clearly broken, possibly in more than one place. Just below her knee, a protrusion of bone was visible, sharp and bloody in the dim light. With grim dread, Erasa attempted to move it and cried out in agonizing pain.
"O-Okay...," the blonde began, rubbing sweat and tears from her cheek with a shaky hand. Disturbingly, her palm came away with a dark smudge of red. "M-Maybe I'm not so fine..."
She felt her head drawn to Videl's shoulder an instant later and a soothing hand stroking the side of her face. Erasa now felt the warm flow of blood dripping down her neck and the cold shiver of shock overwhelming her system. "We'll get you to a hospital soon, Erasa-chan. Just hang in there for a little longer..."
Despite her condition, the girl couldn't help but note, "'We'?"
"Gohan's with me," Videl replied, still maintaining her soothing tone. All pretense of honorific was notably absent from her address.
"I-I heard him tell you about...you know...," Erasa held back the pertinent information, unaware of who else might be eavesdropping in the dark.
Videl seemed unconcerned, possibly because she realized just how alone they currently were. "About the Saiyaman thing? How?"
"The...the men," she still wasn't sure what to call them. Criminals? Kidnappers? Terrorists? Mobsters? They could be all of those things and more as far as she was aware. "They had a radio thing...I heard them listening to your phone call with Gohan-kun. I think they must have bugged your cell..."
Erasa could feel Videl nodding in understanding against her forehead before suddenly drawing away and saying, "Hey..."
The blonde peeked up at her friend's profile and realized that Videl hadn't been speaking to her. The raven-haired heroine was looking across the room, a light smile on her lips and a tired relief sparkling in her eyes.
"They're all unconscious upstairs," an exhausted male voice divulged, calling Erasa's attention to the same location as Videl's. It was Gohan, fully decked out in his Saiyaman gear and looking nearly as awful as the two girls. He'd lost a glove, his spandex body suit was torn at both knees and one elbow and his cape was entirely missing. Most notable, perhaps, was the red spatter that dotted his helmet and visor; it looked suspiciously like blood to Erasa. Despite the condition of his clothes, he seemed entirely unhurt, leading the blonde to deduce that the crimson liquid probably wasn't his.
"Should I call the cops?" Videl queried, attention still fixated on the battered-looking superhero. Her smile didn't waver for an instant.
Gohan reached up and pulled his helmet off, tucking it beneath his arm for safe keeping as he replied, "Nah, I called them from one of their cell phones. They should be here in a few minutes."
"If you have to take off before they get here, I understand," Videl said. Erasa could feel the brunette's grip on her tighten a little.
Gohan, whose revealed expression was easily as tired and haggard as his female counterpart's, shook his head in the negative and approached the two girls. Kneeling down, he relieved Videl of the burden of Erasa and lifted her gently off the floor. His helmet lay forgotten beside him. "I'm faster than any ambulance. I'll take you both to the hospital."
"I'm fine," Videl lied, willingly releasing her friend to the care of their mutual hero. She stood up with them, her comforting hand never straying from Erasa for an instant, and continued, "but we'd better get her to a doctor. That leg doesn't look so good."
Gohan hardly spared Erasa's injuries a glance before agreeing with Videl's assessment, further suggesting, "Climb onto my back. I can take you both."
"Not necessary," refused Videl. Erasa continued to watch this exchange with quiet curiosity, her mind whirring with possible explanations for their sudden change of attitude toward each other. Videl was being practically nice and Gohan hadn't stuttered even once in her presence. Just how long had she been unconscious? "Besides, I don't want to slow you down. I'll follow you in the jet copter."
"Are you sure?" Gohan asked, frowning a little with worry. Well, some things sure didn't change.
Videl finally removed the hand that had been continually supporting Erasa and used it to pat Gohan on the shoulder. She reassured him, "Positive. Now get going before she bleeds to death."
"Alright...," Gohan finally acquiesced, reaffirming his grip on Erasa as he turned to leave the room. A jolt of pain shot up Erasa's leg, but she restrained the hiss of discomfort so as not to break the mood her two friends had created. It would have been like a cell phone ringing right in the middle of the love confession during a romantic movie!
Gohan seemed to have heard Erasa's expression of pain, however, and dipped his eyes to look at her before mounting the staircase. He inquired after her health, lowering his voice tenderly so as not to aggravate her headache, and she stoutly refused to admit any discomfort whatsoever. "I'm fine, really...," she insisted. She didn't really feel like she was lying, either.
The unmasked superhero continued his urgent, yet careful, ascension to the upper level of what turned out to be some kind of residential dwelling. They emerged into what looked like somebody's dilapidated living room, littered with trash, broken furniture and unconscious criminals.
Erasa buried her face in Gohan's soiled tunic to avoid the glaring sunlight streaming in from the windows, the intensity of which caused her head to throb painfully. She had a quick glimpse of defeated, moaning men scattered about the floor before squeezing her eyes shut against the onslaught of light and surmised what had happened here. Very few could stand up to the violent justice that her friends were capable of.
"You might want to hold on," Gohan suggested gently. Erasa acquiesced by digging her nails into his superhero uniform and steadying herself for flight.
"Wait!" Videl's voice interrupted from behind them. Her footsteps could be heard pounding on the basement steps before she, too, burst into the living room, something orange and bloody in her possession. "You forgot this."
Approaching, Videl held out Saiyaman's helmet with a playful smile and a quirked eyebrow. "You don't want the hospital staff to know the true identity of the Great Saiyaman, do you?"
Gohan blushed bashfully and replied, "That might be bad..."
Videl chuckled at him and rose up on her tip toes to put it on for him before saying, "There. Now get going, Mr. Saiyaman."
By the time Gohan – nay, The Great Saiyaman – had taken to the air with her in his charge, Erasa was crying again. This time, she was pretty sure it was out of happy success.
000 000 000
"D'you think it'll go away before I go back to school?" Erasa asked as she frowned at her own reflection in a hand held mirror. The image of her best friend – cleaned, bandaged and wearing an appropriate ensemble – shook her head with an indulgent smile.
"I think you're lucky to be alive, Erasa-chan," Videl informed her, sinking more comfortably into her chair. Her periwinkle eyes were beginning to droop again, but she was still clearly committed to staying awake. "And black eyes go away pretty quick. Take it from someone who knows."
Erasa lowered the mirror onto her blankets and turned to grin at her sleepy friend. Videl's face was less mangled than her own, sporting only a hairline cut here or there and one purple-green bruise along the left side of her jaw. The dark circles of exhaustion were still there, but likely would be gone if Videl would ever leave the hospital and go get some decent rest. "You've been here for three days straight, Videl-chan. You need to go home."
"I'm fine," Videl lied. She'd been saying the same thing every time she was pressed since Erasa's admittance to Orange Star General Hospital and her blonde friend hadn't believed her even once.
"Seriously," Erasa pressed, leaning toward her friend as far as the IV would allow. "Go home. The doctors and nurses are here and I don't need a bodyguard. The police rounded up all the terrorists and no more threats have been made against Daddy since."
Videl, whose eyes had drifted completely closed for a moment, opened them again to fix Erasa with a deadpan stare. "They still haven't found Sharpener," she reminded.
Erasa sighed with exasperation. "Oh, please. Like Sharpener-kun is brave enough to break into the hospital to attack me! Besides, he wasn't really one of the terrorists, he was just...um, greedy."
"Mercenary, you mean," Videl corrected, scoffing. Her eyes narrowed hatefully as she continued to abuse their one-time friend; "I should have dragged him into the police station the second I figured out what he'd been doing. And how can you be so forgiving, anyway? He sold you out to terrorists for money! If it were me, I'd see to it that every hair on his body was burnt off...even the ones you can't see. Maybe especially those."
"Oh, don't be like that," Videl scolded back, tucking an unruly strand of hair behind one of her ears. It had been hanging loose around her face and shoulders since the incident and Erasa could tell it was getting on her nerves. She could only assume that her raven-haired friend was putting up with it for Erasa's other daily visitor. "And don't look so surprised! I would have willingly done it before finding out that he'd sold you to terrorists. He's a total schmuck."
Noting in passing how rarely she got to say this to Videl, Erasa scolded, "Don't be so dramatic, girl. He didn't sell me to them, he just kept them updated on where I was. I don't think he knew what they were going to do."
Videl snorted in derision and disbelief at the notion. She closed her eyes again before saying, "Think whatever you want, Erasa-chan. If I find him, he's going to wish he'd asked for more than a couple hundred Zenni and an appointment at a hair clinic."
Erasa leaned back into her pillows and dropped the conversation. She knew better than anybody how stubborn Videl could be about stuff like this and she wasn't going to waste her remaining strength fighting a losing battle. After all, it had taken a near death experience for the both of them to convince her that Gohan was a pretty okay guy, despite being a superpowered liar.
In the ensuing lapse in conversation, the beeping and whirring of machines seemed louder than ever before. She entertained herself for a minute by watching the steady rise and fall of her heartbeat on the monitor beside her bed before lowering her eyes to what lay beneath the hospital sheets. Her broken leg was wrapped in plaster from ankle to thigh and suspended above the bed in a sling. Had her dosage of pain killers been any less, Erasa strongly suspected that this positioning would be highly uncomfortable.
The other leg – completely uninjured aside from a scraped knee and a stubbed toe – lay on the mattress in relative comfort, warmed by the blankets supplied by the hospital staff and a quilt her grandmother had brought by. The rest of her family had been to see her, of course; her mother, father and brother hardly leaving her side more often than Videl. They spent their nights at home, thankfully, and left her in the capable companionship of her oldest friend and personal heroine. Currently, they were out somewhere buying themselves lunch and probably searching for new gifts to bring her.
Smiling indulgently for the sake of her doting father – who was visibly and profoundly wracked with guilt over his indirect share in Erasa's suffering – the blonde returned to taking stock of her injuries. Skipping right over her pelvic region (and thanking any deities listening that there was no physical sign of rape), she narrowed her focus on the scar that she knew was hidden beneath her hospital gown. She'd had to endure a bit of surgery to stop some minor internal bleeding in her bowel (presumably caused by repeated abdominal kicking that her memory had blocked out for her) and she knew that she'd never be able to wear a bikini again. Though she didn't want to be so superficial, it grieved her to think that her fashion choices would be forever impacted by this ordeal; no more tube tops for her.
Everything above that was a cluster of cuts, bruises and scrapes of unknown origin. All around, the doctors informed her that she'd endured a brutal beating after her daring radio punt. It made sense to her; the broken leg was the one she'd used to send it flying into the wall.
Knock, knock, knock.
"Hey." Erasa raised her eyes to the open doorway and a smile bloomed across her battered cheeks. There was Gohan, a teensy bit late for his "shift" (as usual), with his relaxed knuckles resting against the door. He was holding a pot of something Erasa assumed must be edible and grinning in that endearing way Erasa found so charming. "Can I come in?"
Always so polite. "Sure," blondie replied, squirming a little on the mattress to position herself more firmly upright against her pillows. Gohan set down the dish – which smelled really good, by the way – and lurched forward to help her. With one hand on her upper arm and the other against the bed, he helped her shift until she was more comfortable. "Thanks."
"No problem," he said, removing his hands and standing fully upright again. Woah, she sometimes forgot how tall he was. "How are you feeling?"
"Much better," she replied honestly. The drugs were working, some of the more unattractive wounds were abating and her family had filled the room with flowers and personal touches from her room. Other than the food, Erasa was perfectly comfortable and happy with her situation and the covered dish that Gohan had brought in with him seemed like it might just solve her last little problem. "What's that?"
Gohan flicked his eyes to the gift he'd brought her and replied, "My mother made you some kind of casserole thing. I don't really know what's in it, but it's really good. And she made enough for Videl-san, too. Has she gone home yet?"
"No, and I keep telling her that she's going to collapse if she doesn't – " Erasa stopped talking when her gaze fell upon her friend. She was curled up in her chair, knees bent and nestled into her chest, and her face resting against her folded arms. Her eyelashes fluttered against her cheek as she dreamed.
"You know, just like that," blondie finished, her voice lowering to a softer register and a smirk twitching at one corner of her lips. Videl's breathing maintained its deep, slow rhythm without pause; she was still deep in the loving embrace of Morpheus.
Gohan, showing an enormous amount of restraint, choked back a laugh at Videl's expense as he knelt down to observe her more closely. As if sensing his presence, the teenaged dreamer murmured something nonsensical – it could have been "I'm not sleeping" – and nuzzled deeper into her own arms. Her long, dark hair spilled over her shoulders and down her arms like an overflowing inkwell, draping across her eyes like a painted privacy curtain.
Erasa, showing even more restraint than she gave herself credit for, held in her gasp when Gohan reached up with two tentative fingers and brushed one of Videl's tangled tresses back behind her ear where it belonged. Blondie's excitement threatened to burst forth again when the slumbering Videl sighed gratefully, forcing her to hold it back with both hands slapped across her gaping mouth.
Well, her work here was done.
Gohan clearly didn't suspect Erasa's fangirling as he continued to watch his new lady-love sleep with a fond smile spread across his lips. If he had, he surely would have devolved into a bumbling pile of mush and denial again and completely ruined the endearing situation. Erasa was determined to wait until he left to squeal.
"I'm going to see if the doctors have a bed for her, or something," Gohan announced, very softly, to Erasa. His eyes remained riveted to Videl as he rose back onto his feet. Videl remained undisturbed. "Help yourself to the casserole."
Erasa waved at him with one hand as he disappeared through the doorway, the other still clamped firmly over her mouth to hold in the giggles. As soon as he was gone, she let one slip; her chest heaved in relief.
She turned to look at her friend again and turned her thoughts to one of her new favorite subjects. She wasn't convinced of Bureddo anymore, – it sounded too much like "burrito" to her and who wanted to be named after something full of beans and mystery meat – but Pan still had a nice ring to it. Yeah, Son Pan sounded good.
000 000 000
Author's Notes: Dude...I took forever to finish this thing! I'm ashamed. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it and are now satisfied. If not...well, I'm sorry (I guess). Lolz.
Still dedicated to my dearest RyRy. Merry Christmas!
. ( . Ms Videl Son . ) .
– Who's your daddy? GohanVidel