"…Until My Wounds Are Healed"
On the ground, near the house, the gathering of family and friends broke out in confusion as Goku charged his signature move, aiming it for his fifteen year old son on the ground.
"What is he doing?" Chichi shrieked, shoving Goten at Tien before she started running for her elder son, terror and anger in equal parts on her face, but stopped as Bulma grabbed her from behind, digging her heels in to slow the woman down.
"Chichi," she groan. "You have to—oof!" Chichi had jerked backwards and caught the blue haired woman with an elbow to the stomach, surprising her enough that Bulma's grip loosened for her to pull free and continue forward, but she slammed into a wall; a green one, with a purple gi. She fell backwards, landing harshly on her rear before she glared up at Piccolo's determined face, tears beginning to edge her eyes.
"Piccolo, you have to stop this; he could hurt Gohan!" She cried. But the Namekjin shook his head, a shadow in his dark eyes that Chichi had never seen before.
"He already has," Piccolo said quietly. He glanced over his shoulder toward where Gohan crouched. "Now at least he's trying to fix it."
"What? I don't understand," the woman said, anger tinting her tone as she brushed away her tears and glared up at the tall alien. "How could killing him help him?" Two pairs of hands appeared on her upper arms and gently tugged her to her feet. She swung her gaze around and noticed Krillin beside her on one side and Yamcha on the other.
"Chichi, the kid has sort of been asking for this for a while," Krillin said softly. He patted her arm and swung his gaze around to watch the fight. "He just…didn't know it."
Chichi yanked free of the other's hands and clenched her hands tightly into fists, angry trimmers coursing through her slim frame. Her black eyes were filled with tears that splashed down her face, but she remained where she was. Piccolo turned to the side to watch his one-time enemy charge his powerful ki blast, his son—and Piccolo's own savior—the intended target, and prayed to anyone listening to intervene.
Soft, small arms wound around Chichi's waist from behind her, startling her slightly. She twisted and looked behind her to find Bird latched onto her waist, her large eyes sorrowful.
"I do not want Gohan to be hurt," she whispered. Chichi nearly crumbled at the girl's pained voice, but instead, she tugged the girl closer and pursed her lips. Krillin bit his bottom lip, his expressive eyes resting on the girl.
"I'm sure Goku knows what he's doing," the monk said, sending a reassuring half smile to the girl before he turned his attention back to the sky. Tien shuffled forward then, Goten held out at arm's length, a comical expression on his face, and handed the howling Goten back to his mother before he retreated back to where Master Roshi stood.
Gohan was petrified. The only time that Goku had ever used the Kamehameha wave against him was the one time in the Chamber of Time and Space. And then he did it only because Gohan had told him off for being too gentle with training him. His spine was iced over as he looked up at his father. Every nerve in his body screamed at him to move but Gohan found that he was unable to do so. Instead, he stared at the ball of pulsating energy that his father held in cupped hands beside his right hip. The same move that Gohan had used—with his father's help—as Cell had barred down on him.
Gohan's legs twitched as if to flee, but his gaze still rested on his father and the energy blast that was meant for him. Gohan moved his eyes to his father's face, wondering morbidly if his father had the same look on his face that Cell had. Goku's dark eyebrows were lowered over his eyes, his shoulders titled into position, and his mouth still pressed firmly into a harsh straight line, but his eyes were not right. There were tears in his father's eyes.
"No! Daddy, stop!" Gohan screamed, the childlike fear breaking through as his father's Kamehameha plunged directly for him. In an instant, Gohan wanted to surrender and beg for the man's forgiveness, but it was too late. Heat and a strong gust of wind howled at him where he knelt, with his arms crossed protectively over his head. Every muscle in his body was stretched taut against the coming agony that never came. Slowly, he lowered his arms, alarmed—and thrilled—that he was still alive. Before he could see straight, twin bruising grips latched onto his biceps and yanked him up and out of the ditch that he had been in and began to shake him viciously, his toes barely dragging in the dirt.
"That's enough! Do you hear what I am saying to you? NO MORE!" Gohan opened his eyes just enough to be able to see his father, face livid red with rage, and bodily shaking him. His teeth began to ache at the force with which his head whipped backwards and forwards, but the physical pain was easier to ignore than the emotional. He was not dead, after all. His father had 'pulled the punch' so to speak; that, more than the violent wrenching of his body, finally cracked the walls that had held back all of the other emotions. A strangled feeling overcame him, and he grit his teeth to fight it off, desperate to keep it at bay.
"Are you done, Gohan?" his father demanded. "Do you need me to continue? You are my son and I love you, but so help me I will finish what you started if you think you can take it!" Gohan's throat closed stubbornly against the sob that had crawled up from his chest; his eyes screwed up tight to keep the tears at bay, but the shudders that wracked his body were a dead giveaway to the emotion that lay just beneath the surface, clawing for freedom.
Goku stopped shaking Gohan and suddenly set him on his feet, the landing catching Gohan off balance. The teen was so preoccupied with his inner fight that he did not care to find out why his father had put him down. At least, not until a harsh backhand snapped his head to the side, knocked him on his rear, and made fire-hot stars erupt against his eyelids. Shocked, his eyes flew open to search out his father's face, his left hand flying to his blistered cheek.
Goku's eyes were concerned and caring, his face lined with worry as he watched his son's reaction. Behind him, Gohan heard his mother's shout before she ran into his line of vision, Bird close on her heals. He did not turn to look at her; he could not even move his head in her direction. His eyes were locked on his father's now black eyes and the unspoken love that echoed in the dark orbs released the strangled sob that was in the teen's throat. As if one sob was all it took, the tears began to flow down his cheeks as another sob hitched his chest. The tightly bound emotions broke through, releasing shuddering waves of heartache that threatened to drag him down.
Chichi skidded to a stop a few feet behind Goku, her mouth popping open in surprise at the sight of her eldest son, sitting on the ground with tears dripping off of his chin. Behind her, more of their friends appeared, and though Gohan tried, he could not stem the flow of moist, humiliating heat that rolled down his red cheeks. Instead, he gave in to his humiliation and dropped his eyes away from his father to rest his chin on his chest, shame rolling off of him as he caught sight of Piccolo's face. Miserable, he brought both hands up to cover his ears, hoping that not being able to hear anything would make his reality go away.
You're going to be okay now, kid.
Surprised, Gohan brought his eyes up just as Goku knelt before him and rested his left hand on Gohan's shoulder. He caught Piccolo's gaze a second before Goku's Instant Transmission winked them into oblivion, but it was a good enough glance to note the relief on his mentor's face.
When Gohan blinked again, he sat in the grass, somewhere on a hill side with the stars up above them twinkling in innocence. Goku knelt before him, his hand still on his child's shoulder, his eyes still filled with an emotion that Gohan could not name. Not even the sudden change in scenery could stop the flow of his tears, or the painful, racking sobs that jerked out of his chest. And he hated it. Every single moment, he hated it, but was unable to stop. So he dropped his head into his hands and allowed the tears to come, not even hearing Goku when he spoke. Warm hands wrapped around his wrists and tugged them away from his face and Goku swam into view.
"You need a Senzu bean, son," Goku murmured. Blearily, Gohan looked down as Goku brought his right hand up to reveal the magical bean held between his forefinger and thumb. Childlike, Gohan allowed his father to deposit the bean into his mouth, the tangy legume mixing headily with the tears as he swallowed. Gohan shook his head, desperate to reign in his emotions and the visual display of his years of grief. He bit his lip as he dropped both of his hands to the ground, his fingertips digging into the earth and forcefully crushing it to bits in his palms.
"Gohan," Goku said. Gohan's eyes remained tightly shut, as if the teen did not even hear him. Goku reached both of his hands up and placed them firmly on his child's shoulders. "Gohan, stop holding back."
"I can't let this happen!" Gohan cried. He snapped open his wet eyes and tried to focus blurry eyes on the man before him. A sob rose to the surface, but Gohan swallowed hard and continued, frantic to have his father want him again. "I was stupid; I let him win…I...I let him regenerate! I let him take you…"
"I'm so sorry I failed!" he sobbed, the thoughts that had tormented his dreams and waking moments were tinged dark and heavy as they left his lungs. His words were thick and almost unintelligible, but the mere pleading to his voice tore Goku's heart almost in two. Without another word, Goku grabbed his son and clutched him tightly against his chest; tears of his own mingled with thick strands of his son's black hair. He finally understood what he had done.
"Shh," he whispered. "I'm here. I love you and I'm here."
Gohan seemed to fall apart then, as if Goku had given him the permission he needed to release the pent up rage and other emotions that he had been stubbornly harboring for four years. Rational thought was beyond him as grief ripped across his consciousness, and his only anchor—the only thing that kept him bound to the moment—was the strong heartbeat and reassuring arms that belonged to Son Goku. He tried to speak, tried to make his father understand how sorry he was, but the words would not come out right. Finally, he stopped trying.
Goku was completely lost. As he tightly clutched the semi-hysterical teen to his chest, he whispered words of assurance into his ear, but was not sure how much the child actually caught. The Saiyajin wanted so much to go back and fix things; make it to where his son never felt the way that he did, and knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was loved and that he had done the best he could. The front of Goku's gi was slowly becoming damp, but Goku ignored it and simply sat there, his arms wrapped around Gohan as he cried himself empty.
After about fifteen minutes, Gohan's sobs lessened, while his breathing evened out. Goku tilted his head and looked at the top of Gohan's head as he ran a hand up and down the teen's back. Gohan arched his back, stiffening against his touch. Goku paused, curious, but before he could comment, Gohan relaxed again and turned his head to the side, resting his right ear against his father's chest. His shoulders rose evenly now, without the hint of the emotional upheaval of a bare few minutes ago.
"Gohan, you know I don't blame you for anything," Goku said. Gohan tensed in response. "You did the very best that you could." Goku tightened his arms, worried that he was not saying the right thing, but Gohan remained silent.
"If anyone is to blame, Gohan, it's Cell. He came into our world to destroy us; be angry with him." Gohan tried to straighten away from Goku, but the Saiyajin refused to let him go.
"But if you can't see it that way…then be angry with me." Gohan stilled and relaxed again. Goku tilted his head to the side and looked down; he could see Gohan's eyes were open due to the long dark lashes that blinked against his cheeks, but he was not in the position to see the emotion behind the eyes.
"I know that you have been angry with me, Gohan," Goku whispered. "I know you felt that I left you because you did something wrong, but that was never my intent." Goku pulled away and held Gohan away from his chest to look into his face. "You're the best thing that has ever happened to me!"
Gohan's dark eyes were dull, and lacked the mirror quality that made them easy to read into, and the realization startled Goku. Gohan had always bounced back; he had always been the happy little boy that not even Vegeta could bring down.
"Did you know that, Gohan?" The teen dropped his eyes to the side and nodded, but it was not an agreement, merely a reflex. Goku sighed and narrowed his eyes. He was very thrilled that he was no longer dead, because this was going to take a lot longer to correct than he thought. He reached up and shoved his hand through his hair, confused and frustrated. He loved Gohan…he loved Goten now that he had met him. It was a huge part of why he fought the way he did.
Okay…I think I've broken him, but now I don't know how to fix him! Goku thought. He could feel the teen withdrawing from the situation, though, and it worried him. Goku grabbed Gohan's shoulders again.
"Gohan, say something. Scream at me if you still have something to say, just…say it." Goku's eyebrows were pulled low over his eyes as he watched Gohan, but the kid remained silent. His eyes seemed drawn to the grass at Goku's knee instead.
Goku sighed again and glanced at Gohan's gi. The dark blue material was blown to bits across his chest with several tears along his back and knees. Goku's own orange gi did not look any better.
"Gohan, I'll be right back, I'm going to get you and me a new set of clothes; are you okay if I leave you here?" Gohan finally raised his eyes and gave his father such a severe look that Goku nearly chuckled at the obvious statement behind those dark eyes: 'Yeah, I'm not a child, Dad!' Affectionately, Goku combed his fingers through Gohan's hair, absently brushing up against the teen's cheeks. Gohan closed his eyes and held his breath.
"I'll be back," Goku whispered and then he was gone. Gohan felt the familiar burn of emotion behind his eyes as he sat there, and cringed as he felt another drop of moister leak out from his eyes and start down his cheek. Amazed, he brushed it away with his fingertips. He was surprised that he had any tears left to cry after he had bawled like a baby. Gohan tucked his arms tightly around his waist and brought his knees up to rest his forehead against them, trying to still the last remnants of his chills.
He felt confused as to a course of action. Goku said that it was not Gohan's fault, and Gohan had to admit that some part of him knew that, but he could not seem to stop blaming himself. Funny how moments before, Gohan was able to view his father as the object of his disgust, although he still felt that Goku had let him down, he also knew that he desperately wanted his forgiveness. It was so very confusing.
Now that the wall had been shattered, the teen felt raw, as if having so much emotion burst forth as it had had left him jagged and wide open, and unprotected. He did not like it. As ludicrous as it seemed, Gohan was not sure if he trusted his dad not to leave again. He was a trusting person, naturally, one of the reasons that he and Piccolo had the friendship that they did, but after having lived in his own personal hell for four years, Gohan was not sure if he was up to going back to how it used to be.
But he also did not want to give the man a reason to leave. Gohan was already cracked; he had already let his emotions loose, but he still held a few things close to his heart. He still did not want to be on his own again. With a deep sigh, Gohan tilted his head to the side and looked up at the stars. His throat hurt, his head throbbed, and his eyes were itchy and tired, but mostly, he was simply exhausted. Even though he had slept for hours the previous day, he was still tired.
I wonder if he's coming back, Gohan thought to himself. The thought surprised him, sending a deep echo reverberating around his chest. The teen shivered and tightened his arms around his waist, but the chill had not so much to do with the air, but the emotion that still stirred within him.
"Gohan." The teen was too sleepy to even be surprised by the soft voice that spoke from directly beside him, but he did raise his head obediently. Goku knelt beside him, while Piccolo stood behind his father. Goku rested a hand on Gohan's shoulder. "Son, Piccolo is going to fix our clothes. I was just going to bring us more, but Piccolo suggested this instead."
Gohan remained silent as his father tugged him to his feet, and kept a firm grip on him as he stood before Piccolo. The Namekjin stayed quiet, a reserved expression on his face as he raised his hand toward the teen. A flash of light later and the teen was redressed in his dark blue gi, while his father's gi appeared as good as new. Slowly, Piccolo dropped his hand to his side, his dark eyes mere sparks in the darkness surrounding them. Goku moved closer to Gohan as the teen swayed where he stood.
"Gohan, you and I are going to go away for a while, okay?" Goku's eyebrows pulled down over his eyes as he squinted to see the teen through the darkness. Gohan remained silent, unsure of how to speak again; his thoughts rattled and swam in confusing circles in his head.
Gohan, Piccolo's calm presence whispered against the thundering storm in Gohan's mind. You're confused right now, but you have to trust your dad; he'll take care of you.
Gohan sighed and shut his eyes, twin streams of moist heat making their way down his cheeks and catching the light from the stars. Goku exchanged a look with Piccolo as the tall alien silently moved farther away, but Gohan's soft voice stopped him.
"You were right," Gohan whispered. Piccolo turned around to face him again, curious. Gohan's eye remained shut, his voice low and shallow. "I lost."
"No, Kid, you won this time," Piccolo replied. Gohan's eyelids wrinkled as he squeezed his eyes tightly shut against another wave of misery.
I'll be around, Gohan. The calm brush against his subconscious soothed the ache in his chest, but briefly. And then Piccolo's ki rose and slowly disappeared. Goku tugged gently on his arm.
"Come on, son, let's go find a good place to spend the night," Goku said quietly. He pulled the teenager up and draped an arm around his shoulder, drawing him into the air, the dark velvety blackness the backdrop as the father and son blazed brilliantly across the night sky.
AN: To all those who have read/reviewed/stuck with this story—THANK YOU! This is by no means the end, merely the beginning chapter of a story that has haunted my dreams for nearly ten years.
I began writing this because it bothered me that Goku chose to leave and then the series just picked up with Gohan as a teenager. I wanted to see what would have happened if Gohan didn't bounce back… just once. His character is such that he wants to please people, but this felt like it would have been a game changer to me, so I decided to explore it.
One of you mentioned that I deviated away from the other aspects of the story and focused more on Gohan and Goku—you're correct, I did. And I did it on purpose because Gohan was focused so in that way. I felt that it was so obscuring that HE wouldn't have seen something coming if it waved flags and blew off fireworks!
I am total pants at replying directly to each review, but I appreciate each of them! Thank you for any suggestions/comments/ corrections/ and positively uplifting praise! I wrote this for myself, so it is very humbling that so many of you are enjoying, too!
Blood Lies: Retributions is up on my page…go check it out and let me know what you think! ^_^