Disclaimer: Dragonball, Dragonball Z, and Dragonball GT belong to their respective copyright holders. No infringement on this copyright is intended.
"Gohan! Do you want a snack? I know you've been working hard," Son Chichi asked as she opened the door to her son's room.
"I'm not really hungry," came the quiet reply. Gohan was bent over a textbook, scribbling on the piece of paper next to him.
Disheartened, Chichi sighed quietly. "Well, if you change your mind, I'll be in the kitchen doing the dishes. Study hard, sweetie." She didn't even get a real reply, just a low grunt in response. Chichi knew she should just leave him alone. She quietly closed the door to her son's bedroom, fighting the quiet depression seeping into her veins.
The weeks since Goku's death had left the Son household much more subdued than usual. Gohan had spoken less, studied hard, and trained harder. And although he acted chipper in the beginning, as the weeks went on, he became more somber. It seemed to his mother that he was trying to drown himself in distractions. She talked, tried to fill up the void with words and love, but it was so hard. And now her suspicions on her pregnancy were confirmed (three months along, if she calculated correctly). The idea that his mother was going to give him a sister or a brother had cheered Gohan up marginally, but Chichi could sense that the loss of his father was weighing him down more than he could admit.
It didn't help that Gohan was suddenly becoming prone to bursts of uncontrollable anger. Chichi knew that it was an unfortunate combination of hormones and grief, but with his strength, his violent outbursts frightened her. She was terrified for her son's mental well-being. Gohan, she had noticed, had been much more careful since Chichi had announced her pregnancy, and generally did not react with any anger towards her. But Chichi knew it was there, simmering under the surface. She couldn't say she blamed her child. She felt the same thing. But for Gohan's sake, and for the sake of her unborn baby, she kept control, only allowing herself to vent when she was alone in her bedroom.
Chichi's rage, however, resulted more often in crying fits that left her feeling irritatingly weak. Smashing inanimate objects was always a much better source of relief for her, but Chichi did not dare that with her baby. And it would worry Gohan, she knew. She had caught him listening in on her once or twice, when the door had been left open. But she couldn't bear the idea of foisting this pain on top of Gohan, not when he already had so much to suffer through. And she had changed. Tempered by loss, Chichi had grown much more reserved. This wasn't to say that she didn't grouse, nor yell at Gohan to just finish his homework before he ran off with Piccolo, but it wasn't as loud, nor as long, as it had been before Goku left. Chichi knew that could change at the drop of a hat. She recognized how hormonal her pregnancy made her, but with a conscious effort, she didn't allow the side-effects of pregnancy to rain down upon Gohan. They were both trying to be so careful with one another. She wasn't sure how much longer this could last.
Chichi stood in the kitchen, drying the last of the breakfast dishes and wondering if this was how her life was going to remain. She felt lonely. Gohan's emotional wall made her wonder how good a job at this whole "mothering" thing she was really doing. She put a dish down and wrapped her arms around her stomach. Not even a bump yet. Silently, Chichi vowed that she would do better with her second child, so that he or she wouldn't have to suffer the way Gohan suffered.
Suddenly, an angry shout and a loud bang emanated from her firstborn's room. In a flash, Chichi was at his door. "Gohan?! Gohan?!" she called as she opened it. He looked up at her in mute horror, as if he couldn't quite comprehend what he had just done, and knew that there would be hell to pay. He appeared unhurt, and her biggest fear was immediately soothed. Chichi surveyed the room. It seemed that he had thrown his textbook and pencil against the wall. His bedspread was littered in plaster and fragments of wood. The textbook lay embedded in the wall. This was completely out of character for the boy. The worry that Chichi had felt pooling in her bones for the past few weeks rose. If things had been normal, she would have been livid. She would have been furious at the wanton destruction of her home and of the books. She would have ranted and railed and screeched until everything was in order again.
Things were not normal.
Gohan continued to stare up at her. She could see his throat working, as if he wanted to speak but hadn't the slightest idea what to say. Had she done this? Made her child so afraid of her wrath that he couldn't talk to her? Chichi sighed. "Come on, Gohan. Let's go outside." She watched as confusion replaced horror, and she couldn't blame him. But there were more important things to worry about than a broken wall. And it seemed that she was long overdue for a chat with her son. Obediently he followed her outside, and she sat them down next to a large tree in the backyard. It was her favorite, and the one she always sat under when she watched Gohan and Goku play together in the sun, usually with a sewing project in her hands. Chichi closed her eyes, fighting the memory. She put her arm around Gohan, holding him loosely in place. She remembered a time when she was a child, and had broken a vase that had belonged to her mother. It had been so soon after her mother's death. She had thought that her father was going to kill her. But her father had merely taken her outside,sat with her in the sun, and waited for her to explain what had happened. The technique had worked with her, so Chichi saw no reason that it wouldn't work with Gohan.
Sure enough, after about ten minutes of silence, Gohan squirmed under her arm and said, "Mom, about the book, I'm really sorry."
Closing her eyes and resting her head against the tree, Chichi calmly replied, "Care to tell me what happened?"
Silence filled the yard once more. Idly, her fingers began to stroke his hair. It had always been a comfort to him, she knew. She could hear the sounds of the forest: birds singing, the distant roar of the dinosaurs, the wind rustling through the leaves. If Piccolo showed up and broke this tranquility by demanding that he go train Gohan, Chichi would personally ensure that none of the dragons would ever be able to revive him. Again, she felt Gohan shift. He leaned into her, perhaps allowing himself the comfort that only a mother can provide. Chichi didn't know for certain, but she was grateful.
"It was just so hard, Mom. And I didn't understand and I got so frustrated that I just... lost it," the boy confessed. "I don't get why I have to study so hard! It didn't help me..." Here he trailed off into his own thoughts, but Chichi felt that she could guess his sentence fairly easily. It didn't help him save his father.
"Gohan," she began, still calm and patient. "Have I ever told you why I insist that you study so hard?"
"No," Gohan replied. Curiosity laced his voice; Chichi could tell that she was distracting him from his black thoughts.
"I want you to study hard so you'll be smart." She looked down at him in time to catch his eye-roll. "Gohan, don't you roll your eyes at your mother! And keep quiet until I'm done, Mr. Sarcasm!"
"I didn't say anything," the boy muttered in protest, but he was cowed by the look his mother aimed at him.
"As I was saying," Chichi continued, ignoring him. "I want you to be smart. Not just book smart, dear, but all kinds of smart. I want for you to be able to figure out a problem on your own, I want you to be able to make the right decisions in life, I want you to be able to have a choice."
"A choice in what?" he said, bewildered and annoyed. "Can I choose not to do my homework?"
"Gohan, what did I say about interrupting?" He murmured a sulky apology, and for the time being, Chichi was satisfied. Mitigating circumstances, she reminded herself. Otherwise that boy would be in for the etiquette lessons of the century! "Good. For the record, no you don't get a choice in that. If you let me continue, maybe I'll explain it all, hmm? Trust your mother to know what she's talking about.
"Now, Gohan, when I say I want you to have a choice, what I mean is that I want you to have a choice in life. So that you can decide to do whatever you want to do. Be whomever you want to be. I don't want you to be chained down to anything just because it's the only thing you know. Take me, for example."
"You, Mom?" Gohan interrupted again.
"If I meant to say someone else, Gohan, I would have. Now, for the last time, hush! When I was growing up, I didn't really get a formal education. I was taught how to be a princess, how to fight, and how to rule, and how to get my way. I was raised to believe that I would be married and share rule of my father's kingdom with my husband. I wasn't angry; I knew that my husband was going to be your father. But I'd watch the village girls go off to college and come back so worldly and sophisticated and I wondered what it would be like if I had the choice to do that. But I knew my path was to be in charge of Mt. Fry-Pan."
"But Mom, you're not ruling with Grandpa. You're living here," Gohan said smartly, wondering where she was going with all of this. "Besides, Grandpa doesn't really rule, anyway."
"That's not the point!" she exclaimed, feeling her ire rise. "Will you just let me finish? Sheesh, I'm trying to bond with you here!"
"All right! I'm sorry, Mom," her son replied. He settled down into her arms, probably to pacify her. Her son knew her well. It worked."I'm listening, I'm listening."
She smiled down at her boy, remembering how they used to cuddle like this when he was younger. Chichi felt a pang in her heart at the thought. He was growing up so fast... he'd leave her soon, just as Goku had done countless times before. Hopefully, her child would at least come back every once in a while. She tucked these emotions deep down, realizing that her sadness was probably amplified by the changes in her body.
"Thank you, dear." She resumed stroking his hair. It was soothing for both. "As I was saying, that's what I was raised to believe. I never really thought about it; my path was set. But those girls who went to school... it was then that I realized that there was a whole world that was closed off from me. And I regretted it, a little bit. Even though I would have chosen the exact same path in life, learning how to fight from your grandpa, marrying your father... I think I would have liked to have been offered the choice to begin with. Does that make sense?"
She glanced down at Gohan. He stared pensively at a passing butterfly. "Kinda..." he said slowly. "But you're still not ruling at Mt. Fry-Pan with Grandpa. And you're plenty smart, Mom! What do you need college for?"
Chichi sighed again, thinking of the dreams that she had long ago forgotten. "Your father told you the story of how we stopped the fires at Grandpa's castle, right? Well, after that, everyone decided that there wasn't really much point in ruling. The village was small enough as it is, and my father had changed so much for the better by then that he didn't really have a desire to be king of anything. So we just... let it go. And Goku wanted to wander and adventure. I would have done anything to stay with him, so we wandered together," she said.
"You didn't answer my question, Mom," Gohan said slyly.
"I'll get to it," Chichi replied, lightly tickling his sides. Gohan giggled and squirmed. "Ah, there's a noise I've missed." He smiled easily up at her as they let an easy silence fill the air between them. Chichi wasn't nearly done, but this was something she desperately missed. It had been desperately lonely without Goku. More lonely than Chichi herself had realized. And with Gohan's slow detachment, that chasm in her heart, deeply tucked away, had widened. But now, sitting here with her son enjoying the afternoon, she felt lighter than she had in weeks.
"So... is that it?" Gohan asked, although he made no move to get up. Apparently he needed this just as much as she did.
"No. If having choices isn't so important to you, mister, then maybe we can think about this another way." Chichi said. She raised her eyebrows appraisingly at her son. "Who's the richest person we know?"
"Bulma!" pronounced Gohan emphatically. "Man, it must be nice to live with all of those neat gadgets. And the training room!"
"Yeah, but you'd have to live with Vegeta," Chichi replied, scowling in her best imitation of the surly Saiyan. She lowered her voice, barking out orders like the former Prince. "You! Kakarrot's brat! How did you possibly defeat Cell? You're a weakling!!"
Gohan laughed. "You've got him down, Mom! That's just what he'd say! I think I'd rather stay here."
"I'm so pleased I'm a better choice than Vegeta," Chichi said with the barest sarcasm in her voice. The two laughed again. "Anyway, Bulma's the richest person we know. She's also the smartest. And look at what she can do! She can build the equipment that all of us need. I think she developed the technology to make the capsule houses better. She's built homes and the dragonball radar and cars and all sorts of amazing things. She can do whatever she wants, and do you know why?"
"Because she's rich!" Gohan said smartly, knowing where his mother was going but teasing her nonetheless.
"Be serious, Gohan! It's because she's smart, which is coincidentally the reason why she is so filthy rich. And you know it, too, so stop grinning like that. You understand what I'm trying to say, right?" Chichi pulled her son tighter to her chest, willing her brilliant, strong, wonderful son to understand that all she really wanted was nothing less than the best for him.
"Yeah, Mom," Gohan replied with a weariness that should not belong to any twelve-year-old. "I get it."
"I love you so much. I only want the best for you," Chichi said quietly into his hair.
"What if my choice is to fight?" Gohan swallowed. Chichi could feel his Adam's apple bob against her chest. She considered her options. She wanted to shout and scream at him, that he'd never fight again as long as she could help it. She wanted to say that there was no power in the universe that could convince her to let him get fight again.
But that wasn't what Gohan needed to hear right now.
"Well," she began slowly, "as much as I would like you to reconsider, and sweetie, I really want you to reconsider, that would be your choice. And I would help you in any way I could. But Gohan, before you commit yourself to that life, don't forget all the things you've learned. All the different ways people think and understand. All of the men and women in history who solved fights with their words instead of with their fists. All of the beauty and wonder and exploration there is to be had in the world."
"But if I were stronger—"
Chichi brought a hand up to her son's lips, shushing him. "This isn't really about your future, is it, Gohan?" Gohan was silent and refused to meet his mother's eyes, confirming her suspicions. "You know, your father always told me how much better you were than him," she said quietly.
Gohan jerked out of her arms, propping himself up to stare at his mother's face. "He... what?"
She nodded, pulling Gohan back down against her. "He did. He said to me, 'Chichi, Gohan is just so much stronger than I was then. He's so smart and funny... he's just so much better than me.' He was so proud of you, Gohan. All your father knew was fighting. His entire life was fighting something or someone. He was really good at it, too. But it was all he knew. He didn't have much of a choice, either, you see?"
Gohan nodded against her, but she could feel the tension in his shoulders. "But Mom... if I had been stronger..."
"What difference would it have made?" Chichi asked softly. "You were strong enough to defeat Cell. Listen to me very closely, Gohan." She pulled her son up so she could gaze into his eyes. The pain she saw there was enough to break her heart. "You are not responsible for your father's actions. He can be a huge idiot without your help." That earned her a weak grin, but it fell from Gohan's face quickly.
"I miss him," the boy said simply.
"I miss him, too," Chichi replied, hugging Gohan tightly. "You know, I sit and I wonder sometimes, what did I do wrong? Why was living here with me so horrible that Goku decided death would be better?" She felt Gohan's sharp inhalation under her arms. Although it was painful to think about Goku, Chichi realized that Gohan needed someone to vent the rage he was feeling. She continued to speak, her voice low and soothing despite the pain and hurt of her words. "And I get so angry with him for leaving me, for leaving the best child in the entire history of the universe, and for leaving me with a baby he'll never meet. I get so angry that I could scream. And I wonder, if it's so bad here, why didn't he take me, too? Why can't I be with him?
"But Gohan, I also remember how much he loved it here. How much he loved you and me. How much he adored everyone on this planet. And I know that if he thought there was a better way, he'd be here with us."
Gohan took a shuddering breath. She could tell he was fighting tears. Since when had her son hid his emotions? As a child, he had always cried and carried on until someone soothed him. Chichi began to stroke his hair again.
"I just... I get so mad at him, Mom! I get so mad at him for leaving us here! I still need him!" Gohan said into her shirt.
"I know. I need him, too. And I bet you feel like a horrible person because you're so angry with him, right?" Another quick inhalation confirmed it.
"How... how did you..." Gohan began. She could hear the guilt in his voice.
"Because I feel exactly the same way, sweetheart. He's the savior of the world, and I hate him for that," Chichi said with a sad smile. "It's okay to feel like that, Gohan. Since when has your mother been wrong?"
With that, Gohan let out a muffled sob and began to cry into her shirt. She held him tightly, letting him express his grief and rage with safety and reassurances. Chichi rocked her firstborn back and forth, whispering soothing noises into his ears as he cried. Her poor baby. Goku would pay in the afterlife for abandoning this amazing, wonderful child. She'd see to that.
After a few minutes, Gohan seemed to cry himself out. He pulled back to wipe his nose with his hand. Wordlessly, Chichi fished out a handkerchief and gave it to him with a slightly reproachful glance.
"Mom," he said as he wiped his face. "You need it, too." In surprise, Chichi felt her cheeks. They were wet with tears.
"I guess I do!" But instead of taking the handkerchief, Chichi dried her eyes with her sleeve.
"Mom! You can't do that! If you get to use your sleeves, I get to use my hand!" Gohan scolded.
"You just got a ton of snot all over that handkerchief. I don't want that on my face!" She scrunched up her nose at him. Gohan peered at the handkerchief in question.
"Here's a clean corner! Use that!"
"Ew! Gohan! That's gross!" In a fit of inspiration, Gohan mischievously waved the handkerchief in front of his mother's face, trying to get it to touch her. She jumped up quickly, allowing herself to be chased. The two ran around the yard, laughing and shrieking. But Chichi soon got tired of the game. Her body was already achy and sore from pregnancy; sitting for an hour under a tree hadn't helped much. Holding her son's hand, she took him back inside.
"Hey, Mom?" he asked as they entered the kitchen.
"Hmm?" Chichi dampened a cloth and proceeded to clean off Gohan's face.
"Whenever... whenever I get mad or sad about Dad again... can we sit under the tree?" He looked up at her, eyes so somber. Unable to resist, Chichi gave him a quick squeeze. Goku, she thought, look at how well we did with him.
"Anytime you want, sweetie. Tell you what. When I'm sad or angry, I'll ask you to come with me to the tree, too." Gohan impulsively clutched his mother tightly around the middle. "Gohan, be careful! Your brother or sister is in there!"
"Sorry, Mom," he replied sheepishly. He relaxed his grip, but didn't let go. Chichi felt her heart melt. "Uh... Mom?"
"Can I be done with homework today?" he asked hopefully. Ha! Just because they had finally reconnected as a family and had overcome a huge emotional barrier, she wasn't going to let him relax his studies. A crafty smile stole over her face.
"Considering that it'll be time for dinner when you've finished fixing that huge crater in your wall, I suppose so."
"What??" Gohan cried.
"What, did you think that hole was going to fix itself?" Chichi replied, turning to finish the dishes she had neglected earlier.
"But I don't know how!"
"Well it's lucky for you that I have a few books on it, then, isn't it?" Chichi watched her son's expression fall comically. "Look on the bookshelf next to the fireplace, third shelf down, if I remember correctly. Have fun, sweetie!"
Gohan trudged out of the kitchen, grumbling under his breath. Chichi's eyes followed him as he left. The air in the house seemed suddenly brighter, fresher. She knew there would still be moments of grief, sorrow, and anger, but now they would face them together as a family. We're gonna be okay, Goku, she silently called. Even though you're not here, we're going to make it. But if you're not looking out for us over on the other side, I'm gonna make sure that there's hell to pay.
Ready for some long reading? No? Then I hope you enjoyed my little fic!
Still here? Awesomesauce.
I like DBZ. I really do. But it's not known for its emotional depth. At best, the message is "everything can be defeated by hard training and the power of friendship!!" Considering that the target audience for the show, this isn't terribly surprising. And usually, I'm cool with that. It's a fun show with big explosions and big hair. What's not to love?
Perhaps it's stretching the boundaries of both of the characters, but I just can't accept that a young child is going to be hunky-dory with the death of a parent. Understand, certainly, but to not feel resentment? It's beyond the bounds of believability. And Chichi would likely have lingering negativity, in guilt, anger, resentment, the whole works.
Surviving is hard. It's only natural to grieve, even if the Sons are special enough to get a few conversations in afterwards. I know Goku doesn't seem to have negative emotions, but saying the same of a twelve-year-old is just not possible. Goku may be alien, but his son is at least partially human. So I wrote this to address the mourning period that I figured must have occurred off-camera. Chichi cried for all of ten seconds in the show while her father and her son pretty much said "there, there". And that's all we get.
So I got to thinking. Maybe Gohan was okay with his father's decision in the beginning, but as time goes by, he begins to feel resentment pooling. And possibly, because he does understand his father's position, he gets angry with himself for feeling that resentment. And it snowballs from there. Gohan is twelve. Twelve-year-old boys, by and large, are little punks. They're hormonal and rebellious and they push their limits. Couple this with survivor's guilt and grief, and you've got a little angst-ball on your hands.
Grief manifests itself in many ways. This is just one possibility.
But really? I wanted to show what a rockin' mom Chichi is. And that she just can't be a raving harpy all of the time, otherwise her children wouldn't adore her as much as they do (I blame the dubs for her insane personality). If she wasn't such a good mother, her sons would turn into mini-Vegetas. Little arrogant hellions with no check on their power. Man, Chichi rocks!