In the aftermath of Buu's defeat there was much rejoicing and celebrating by the Z-Senshi and company. Everyone had gone for a shower and a change, and now a long and fairly wild party was being held in a small conference building just outside Capsule Corp.'s main compound. Many hours had gone by and the party's patrons were beginning to pair off and wind down for the night; it was, after all, nearly four AM.
Son Gohan had spent most of the party in a small courtyard with Goten, Trunks and Marron. Marron, the youngest, had fallen asleep first on an ornate stone bench and was given over to the care of CC staff for the night (her parents, like most of the other adults, were fairly intoxicated at this point.) When Goten fell asleep as well, however, Gohan refused to be separated from him. The exhausted seven-year-old was snoring softly on his niisan's shoulder, waking and looking blearily around from time to time only to nestle back into the safety of his brother's arms. Trunks, ever as stubborn as his parents, was still fighting sleep when Gohan decided that the chill wind was too much for the kids and that they should make their way back inside.
Videl appeared and beckoned them into the small coffee room at the back of the building. Videl had earlier asked Oolong for "the story" and Oolong had obliged with pictures, slides and satellite footage of different battles, videos of Budokai tournaments and family photo albums. Gohan lead the way through the sliding glass door and Trunks shut it behind them. Dr. Briefs was snoring on a couch beyond the vending machines. There seemed to be a lampshade on his head. Oolong and Puar were arguing over some candy at one of the small card tables nearby. Trunks tugged at Videl's sleeve and pointed toward the coffee machines.
"Good idea, kiddo." Videl headed that way. Trunks hadn't said much since the ordeal had ended, exhausted emotionally and physically. Videl returned momentarily and they sat for a few minutes and drank their coffee in silence. Gohan dreaded the moment when he and Videl would be left alone together but had already resolved to answer whatever questions she had as truthfully as he knew how. This bashfulness he had with her was going to have to stop. At about four fifteen the three got fed up with the sickly hospital green of the coffee room and ventured out into the red kitchen area.
Chichi sat at the breakfast bar and she didn't look at all like herself. She was wearing a purple and red dress with black leggings underneath; her hair was down and she actually had on the faintest traces of makeup. Gohan didn't say anything to her; she looked happy in her own little world. Through the window over the prep counter Gohan could see three orange gi's—his father, Krillin and Yamcha were sitting in the corner speaking in soft, slurred tones. Certainly Son Goku hadn't been drinking too heavily? Unbeknownst to his son, Goku had actually lost a game of I've Never earlier in the night to his best friend, Bulma, who had subsequently lost one to Goku's wife, Chichi ("Ha! In your face, city girl!") and the three of them were still decidedly tipsy.
Tenshinhan and Chaotzu had shown up and sat together at the kitchen table, glasses of sake still in their hands. They hadn't spoken much to anyone but Goku. Bulma and Vegeta were nowhere to be seen. Neither was Piccolo. Neither was the Ox King, and if Gohan knew his Grandpa the aging monarch was probably passed out somewhere with wine on his breath and a cigarette still in his hand. Trunks climbed up onto a chair to search the cupboards for snacks while Videl and Gohan with Goten continued out into the dark sitting area past the kitchen's double doorway.
Goku, though still quite buzzed, was aware of his boys as they entered the room. Gohan, having abandoned his funky other-world costume for a pair of black pants and boots and a white oxford top, entered quietly with small Goten asleep in his arms. They were followed by Hercule's daughter, Videl. Chichi fancied that the two of them were "an item," as she put it, but Goku had yet to see evidence. They seemed to be as friendly as two study partners could be, but at this point, nothing more. They sat down in the corner by the sliding doors leading to the patio and Chibi Trunks appeared shortly with a box of club crackers, peanut butter and some juice boxes.
Yamcha's and Krillin's voices faded out as Goku watched the four kids—well, to be fair only two of them were kids anymore—start on their snacks. Goten awoke and scrubbed at his eyes for a minute. Gohan pulled the straw off a juice box and poked it through the hole for him, and the little boy sat contentedly on Gohan's lap while together Videl and Trunks made triple-decker-peanut-butter-cracker sandwiches. In the waning moonlight Goku could make out the shape of Trunks' face—a sharp, angular jaw and a smooth brow, the widow's peak (strategically concealed under lavender fringe), the small nose and mouth. He was, despite his coloring, the very image of Vegeta, who had earlier pulled his drunken wife outside into the cool night air. Kami knew what they were doing in the woods behind the compound.
Goten had dozed off again. Goku watched interestedly as Gohan removed the juice carefully from the little boy's hands so it wouldn't spill and pulled him closer to sleep. A realization hit him—Goten, no matter if Goku was his sire, belonged strictly to Gohan. That's what had been bothering him at the tournament, no—it didn't bother him, he just hadn't understood it. The way they were together, Gohan's fingers playing idly through Goten's hair, Goten, who obeyed niisan absolutely and without question, the unwavering trust, that was something that Goku would never have with Goten. He had missed too much of the boy's life, and he regretted it.
But it was okay. Gohan was a good little surrogate daddy and Goten was well taken care of. Goku only hoped that after this party was over he would be welcomed back into his family; Chichi, though obviously delighted, seemed worried. Oh well. Goku took another drink of whatever Yamcha had put into his glass; there was nothing for it but to wait and see.
Whoo. Pretty colors.
Bulma Briefs couldn't remember being so fucked up in her entire life.
She hadn't meant to drink that much, really. She'd started a friendly game with her dearest, oldest friend and it had gotten out of hand. The look on Vegeta's face when she'd won had been priceless, though—"This makes no sense, woman! He weighs five times what you do!"—and she'd decided to show off. Next up was Chichi, whom she'd thought would be a pushover. She'd thought wrong. Apparently Son Chichi, mild-mannered except when it came to the safety of her sons, quiet, reserved, intelligent but a country girl at heart, had been brewing up moonshine all these years and had quite the tolerance built up. Who knew?
After she'd lost Vegeta had led her away from the festivities out into the biting but somehow comfortable night air, perhaps in hopes of sobering her up. They'd been sitting in the back of the garden for three hours now, watching the perfect night sky in silence. She sat on the ground between his legs, her back to his chest, her head resting back against his shoulder so that she could see straight up above them into the heavens. Bulma would have been content to sit on the patio just outside the building but Vegeta had insisted on being completely alone with her. And who was she to argue with a prince? Ha.
This was, indeed, off-character for him. He was well known for shying away from her touch in front of people—hell, even when they were alone he usually wouldn't put his hands on her. He would manhandle her, yes, if she got in his way, but otherwise kept contact to a minimum. It had bothered her for a long time but she had grown used to it. Right now, however, now his hands were on her waist, his chin rested on her collarbone. She could feel his even breath against the exposed tops of her breasts. It was a cool night but she was almost hot as she turned in his arms to press her face into his neck. She wanted to touch him, wanted as much of his skin under her hands as possible. Her arms went around his neck and he allowed it, without a word, even pressed back against her.
At the moment of his death, only hours ago, she had felt, literally felt his life flicker out of existence. She had known. Right then. And it hurt like hell. Their bond, as he had once referred to it, was not what many thought it was. It wasn't mind control or telepathy. No. It was just an… awareness. Even during her pregnancy when he had disappeared into space she could feel that he was there. When he wasn't, all of a sudden, it was a shock. More shocking was the story that Goku had told about how he'd died—it was impossible. But here he was again, hours later, holding her possessively and not speaking. He was wearing street clothes, too, a pair of plain black slacks and a black button-down shirt. His hands, usually gloved for battle and training exercises, were as soft as hers and bare now and were moving down, down—
Inside, Chichi was watching the children and having some of the same thoughts as her husband was across the room. Goten and Gohan were as close as any brothers could be and Gohan, who had played daddy all these years, was probably going to be upset about handing over his little charge to their father. Gohan was a wonderful brother and had been attached to the boy almost as soon as he was born. Chichi wondered how Goten would take to being under Goku's care instead of Gohan's because, really, Gohan was grown and probably wouldn't live with them for too awful much longer. After Goku's death Gohan had been the strong one who'd pulled her through and sat with baby Goten all those nights when he cried inconsolably. Chichi had been shocked when she'd first seen her newborn's face; he was the mirror image of his father, and she knew it had broken Gohan's heart too.
But they were inseparable. Gohan didn't seem to be able to function without Goten there. He had to know where he was, what he was doing, all the time. They ate together, slept together, did homework together—one memorable night three years ago Goten's homework had been to draw a picture of his family. He hadn't known what Goku looked like so he'd asked Gohan how to draw Daddy. Gohan, in a stroke of pure genius, had pulled down an old Polaroid camera and snapped a shot of the four-year-old's face. When it had developed, Gohan had given in to Goten and said, "That's what Daddy looks like." And he'd added with a grin, "But he's a little taller."
Unfortunately, this little brotherly moment had been a prelude to an unhappy incident a few days later because, it turned out, the teacher at Goten's day care had been trying to teach "Christian" values to the children and Goten had asked Gohan (one rainy afternoon while playing inside) why they didn't have a daddy like the teacher said they were supposed to. Gohan had explained gently that they did have a daddy, he just wasn't there. Somehow by Goten's childlike reasoning he came to the conclusion that since Goku had died around the same time he'd been born, that if he, Goten, were to die that Goku would come back. Chichi, who'd seen the question coming a mile away, stepped forward to take him out of Gohan's reach but too late—Gohan had already struck.
In the confused minutes that followed Chichi had decided to leave them alone, confident that no further harm would come to her youngest. Gohan, upset with himself, with Goten, and with the schoolteacher, tended his baby brother's bloodied nose and quieted his cries with soft words of apology. He carefully explained that Daddy was in heaven and that no, Goten's death would not bring him back and to please not say things like that because it scared niisan—and when she'd found them later in the rocking chair in their room, asleep, their tear-stained faces pressed close together, she'd realized with surprise how much they really needed each other. She'd also known, watching them sleeping soundly together, that Goten was, and always would be, Gohan's baby and nobody else's.
How was she going to explain that to Goku? Son Chichi poured herself another drink.
Piccolo wasn't one to join in the festivities. He was lurking on the roof quietly, monitoring Gohan and the other children. Those boys, Trunks and Goten, had been devastated by Gohan's "death." They were something else, too, and Piccolo couldn't quite figure out what. Trunks was all smarts—tactics, plans, techniques, while Goten was pure, raw power the way Goku was sometimes. Untainted and undaunted, the child was so like his father, so unlike Gohan as a child. Gohan had been terrified, unconfident, and constantly self-recriminating. Everything had to be his fault, all the time, and if left alone the boy would wallow in self-pity until Piccolo just wanted to vomit. But he had learned. He had grown, and today he was a warrior like no other, if only he'd own up to it. But Gohan wasn't a fighter at heart. He was loving and caring and wanted to be with his family. Piccolo had no doubt that under Gohan's care Goten and Trunks would be fine. This nightmarish ordeal would soon be nothing more than a thrilling memory. Hopefully Gohan could also teach them some respect for Son Goku.
Son Goku. The man was remarkable. He had the power and the skills to defeat anyone and everyone who threatened this planet and what's more he had a knack for turning evil into good. Krillin, his closest male friend, had once been a rival. Oolong, Yamcha and Puar, Tenshinhan and Chaotzu had all been rivals as well. Yamcha had even been out to kill the boy, years back. Piccolo for years had dreamed of nothing sweeter than victory over the happy-go-lucky hero that was Son Goku. And here he was now, on the roof of their party, keeping a close watch on his former arch nemesis' son. Oh, the irony. Goku, in his innocent and trusting way, had the power to melt a heart of ice, to crumble a heart of stone, without even knowing what he was doing.
Vegeta, currently fooling around with his wife on the other side of the garden, was one of Goku's biggest miracles. The Prince of Saiyans was as pure a form of evil as Piccolo had ever seen. The Demon King himself would bow before the embodiment of hatred and cruelty that had been Prince Vegeta. Callous, ruthless, uncaring, a cold-blooded and cunning killer come to destroy the planet and take the Dragon Balls for himself and now here he was, having an early-morning tryst with his woman, Dragons and Gods and immortality forgotten. He'd given his life for his son, his mate, and this planet and would, Piccolo knew, do it again in a heartbeat. Thanks to Goku.
It was a little disturbing.
When Goku got up to go speak to his wife Krillin decided it was time to go and find his own. She was sitting out in the hallway by the coffee room. Krillin took her hand and led her back through the kitchen and sitting room, all the way out onto the patio where they found Vegeta and Bulma. He'd thought they'd disappeared for the night but then, Trunks was still up so he figured that Bulma, at least, would be too. Yamcha came out momentarily and the five of them sat quietly on the benches and gliders watching the stars. The moon was just visible over the horizon, bright and full and orange as it set. Krillin felt a stab—the Earth hadn't had a moon in years. He thought wryly that the others around him were probably thinking the same thing. Simple beauty. Simple pleasures.
Krillin was glad to have the moon back.
This Shaolin monk had never planned on having a family. He'd never planned on a wife or children or anyone at all (but he loved them anyway). He'd had Roshi and Lunch for company and they had been enough. Of course, he loved to see Yamcha, Puar, Bulma and the gang too. For the last seven years the knowledge that he would never see Goku again had tormented him—Goku, once his rival, had been his closest friend for over two-thirds of his life. Even with the gaps, the years spent apart, nobody understood Krillin like Goku did. Nobody except Bulma and perhaps Chichi had ever been so close to Goku. And now after seven years here was Goku, alive, well, and slightly drunk.
Krillin was glad to have his friend back.
Goku and Chichi came outside, hand in hand. They were followed by their two sons, then by Vegeta's son and Hercule's daughter. Krillin and Yamcha had a bet going on, just between them: that Goten and Trunks would turn out gay and wind up together. Everyone could see that there had never been two people more perfect for each other. As the group settled down comfortably Krillin's mind wandered back to the impending dawn. Only a day ago, he had been rising and looking forward to seeing his oldest friend for what he was sure would be the very last time, ever. And now he was watching a sunrise with that same friend—the first of many to come.
Krillin was glad for the sun.
In the heat of battle Krillin knew nothing but the enemy. Fleeting thoughts—his family, his home, and his friends—passed through and gave him the strength to continue even when they were in dire straits. It had always been thus. When Goku had gone alone to attack the Red Ribbon Army's headquarters Krillin had gone along with the rescue party, knowing they had not a prayer of a chance of coming out alive, but thinking only of Goku; innocent, carefree, selfless Goku, who knew nothing of greed and was on a mission, determined, unstoppable. He had known, when they found Goku alive and having decimated that entire base with only a cloud and a stick, that if anyone in the world could beat any enemy it would be Goku. And he was right.
Krillin was glad to be alive.
Vegeta kept quiet vigil over his mate, who was still significantly inebriated. She was more at herself now than she had been, so he just kept quiet and sat by her side in case she needed him. He watched as Kakarott's eldest led the two boys out onto the porch to watch the sun rise. He kept one eye on his own son, Trunks. The boy had the same look now as Mirai had carried always—the same lines of tension in his slight frame, the little hands clenched tight and shoulders rigid. The last thing Vegeta needed was for the boy to become like his future counterpart: nervous, shy, self-recriminating and obsessive/compulsive. He remembered clearly the breakdown that Mirai had suffered in the Room of Spirit and Time and Vegeta was determined that his Chibi would never reach that point.
He suspected that it had had something to do with Mirai's exposure to Gohan as a child. Gohan, always the proverbial emotional train wreck, had that influence on his brother, too. But there were advantages to it as well; it made Miari cautious, a quick thinker, but a bit defensive. That emotional turmoil, though, is what had nearly cost him his sanity in that room, and Vegeta had seen it, had pushed him anyway. Goading. Baiting. Taunting. The first time the boy actually took a swing at him it was because Vegeta had said something about his mother—a mistake he only made once, to be sure. He'd been on the floor so fast he didn't even know it, and Trunks was yelling—he'd known that Saiyans of that age were temperamental, emotional, hormonal, ready to fly off the handle at the drop of a hat. As close to collapse as Mirai Trunks was anyway it was a wonder he hadn't snapped before then.
Yes, Vegeta had known what he was doing, pushing the boy over the edge, and he regretted it later. The seventeen-year-old hybrid had spent thirteen days unconscious, waking long enough to vomit hard until he had pulled most of the muscles in his abdomen only to pass out again on the cold bathroom tiles. On the tenth day Vegeta had become seriously concerned. On the fourteenth day he'd awoken to find the boy up, sitting in the corner by the bathtub. Dehydrated. Shaking. Crying. Twenty pounds lighter. Running a high fever. Vegeta had dragged him into the tub, clothes and all and turned on the shower. Pushed his hair back from his face. Brought him some juice to drink because plain water is hard to digest if you haven't eaten. It came back up. Upsetting the boy even more. Vegeta stripped him, helped him wash, dry, dress, without a word. Put him to bed and sat with him. Cut the boy's nails because he'd clenched his fists so tightly they'd cut into his palms.
And he'd felt bad. He felt guilty for dying, in Mirai's time. He hated himself for leaving him and the woman to fend for themselves. For not being strong enough to save himself and them from the horrors of the Androids. And so he trained. Hard and long and without stopping for food or drink. And he'd looked after the boy, who'd come from that hellish time just to help them; to give them a chance to live. With no thought for his own safety or his world's. He'd left his mother alone to give all of them a chance for peace, and Vegeta felt that he owed it to the boy to kill the bastards, even if he could do little to help Mirai in return. He could bring him crackers and tea and help him to the bathroom. Lace his boots up for him (because his hands were so shaky) and help him with some warm-ups. Put him back in the game. So he could defend himself, at least. Vegeta had actually learned some feelings for his son during that time. All because he'd felt guilty.
And he'd be damned if he ever had to fucking feel that way again.
When she'd asked she'd been told to speak with Oolong the shape changing pig. And so she had, with slight trepidation, returned to the coffee room and asked this pig for the tale of how all these odd fellows had come together. And what a strange tale it was: aliens, dragons, Gods, hermits, turtles, spaceships, holy water and glowing balls with stars inside, to begin with. Gohan was only half human (but the old pictures of him as a toddler with his tail were adorable!). Trunks had a history of time-travel (in the future) and Son Chichi sure as hell could hold her liquor. Bulma Briefs, the richest, smartest and most beautiful woman on the planet, was married to a prince from another world and Number 18, as she was called, was actually a cyborg. The great invincible Master Roshi of legend was really just a dirty old man and Son Goku, the most powerful being in the universe, who'd defeated more monstrous bad guys than you could shake a magical stick at, was gentle enough to have blown his wife out of the ring with just a puff of air at the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai so he wouldn't have to strike her.
Videl had never been part of a stranger group. Hercule and Son Goku (recently returned from the dead) were deep in conversation out on the patio steps. Krillin the bald monk and student of the great Muten Roshi, his comrade Yamcha and wife Android 18 were sitting on the opened windowsill, not speaking but sipping quietly at their drinks. Bulma and Vegeta sat on a glider together near the edge of the porch. Gohan sat opposite Roshi at a picnic table with the children in his lap. Oolong and Puar were with them, engaged in a game of cards. Lunch, the peculiar girl whose personality changed when she sneezed, was passed out drunk on the patio's warm flagstones by their feet. Chichi sat beside her, a bottle of vodka in hand. The odd pair she hadn't met—Tenshinhan and Chaotzu—were sitting on the railing.
Videl decided to get up and get a soda, so she headed inward to the small kitchen and sat down at the table. Videl liked kitchens; they reminded her of her mother, who had been an excellent cook and spent countless hours helping Videl with homework at the kitchen table while preparing dinner. She snapped out of her reverie when she heard a door shut behind her. She stuck her head out into the hallway to see Gohan standing there. The bathroom light was on, and the door was shut. One of the kids, she suspected. Gohan started when he saw her; he hadn't realized she was there. She went to the fridge and pulled out a can of soda for him as well. He thanked her and stood by the doorway.
"Gohan?" Videl started softly. She wasn't sure about where they stood now, after all that had happened.
"Hm." His eyes were dark but glittery in the half-light. So pretty…
"Can I ask you something?"
"Anything." He responded honestly. She hesitated, but plunged forward after a moment.
"Oolong said you almost died during the battle with Buu, after Vegeta had…"
"What was it like? Where were you, anyway?"
"Of all the scary questions you could ask me, that's it?" He looked surprised, set his soda down on the counter. "I was lying in a grassy field somewhere…. Daddy and the others were missing. I was bleeding out onto the ground and my clothes were torn up. I think most of my ribs were broken and my skull was fractured. I was sort of… fading in and out. The sun was shining, the sky was blue. And I just kept thinking—um…" he coughed.
"What?" She saw the color rise in his cheeks. It was another moment before he spoke, so quietly she could scarcely hear.
"I wanted my mother."
The young man looked decidedly uncomfortable but he held her gaze stubbornly, his jaw set, and for a moment Videl doubted that those words had actually come out of his mouth. But then—it was the sweetest thing she had heard a boy say in a long time. She took a step forward, stood up on her tiptoes, and pressed her mouth softly against his. He responded shyly, she could feel his hands shaking as they went to her shoulders. She had him pinned against the doorjamb, and there was nothing for it but to take advantage: she tilted her head, sliding her slick bottom lip against his and forcing his mouth open…
Trunks Briefs climbed down off the sink after washing his hands and left the bathroom. He hated being so small; he was much littler than all the other kids his age. Papa said he'd grow when he was about fourteen, not before. According to Mama, Trunks would be taller than Papa though how she knew Trunks hadn't a clue. Oh well. At least Goten was still his size. Goten would always be his size.
Gohan and Videl looked kind of busy, so Trunks continued out to the patio to where everyone else was. Goten was still asleep, sitting in Muten Roshi's lap. Gohan and Goten's parents had snuggled together on the steps and Hercule (along with double creepy fat Buu) was asleep in the grass below them. Mama and Papa were sitting on a glider nearby so Trunks went to sit with them. His father shook him and told him not to be so stiff. Perplexed, Trunks laid down in the glider next to them, careful not to touch Papa. Trunks rather thought that his parents were sitting a bit closer together than normal, but he dismissed it. He'd been fighting a losing battle against sleep for hours now, and sleep was sure to win. A gentle hand landed on Trunks' arm and the boy started to realize that it belonged to Vegeta. From where he was he could see his father's face, so like his own, but unreadable.
Wait. Were Mama and Papa actually getting along? Had Mr. Satan actually helped save the world? Was Goten and Gohan's dad really back for good? And had Gohan finally figured out how to get into Videl's pants? Chibi Trunks raised his head and the rising sun caught his eyes, a bright smear of orange surrounded by pink on the horizon. The birds chirped and the chill in the air carried the scent of moonflowers with it.
A new day was dawning, and it would prove to be a glorious one indeed.