Goku frowned as he looked at the screen. "I don't get why we can't get that one," he said, his lower lip pouting out.
"Because," Krillen explained, "it's right near the dump."
"But it's not like it's in the dump," Goku defended. "And look! It's five bedrooms, and it's in our price range!"
"Absolutely not," Chi-Chi sternly stated. "No child of mine is growing up with garbage!"
Goku shook his head. "I still don't get it. I mean, yeah, it'll smell bad sometimes, but look how big it is!"
Leaning back in his chair, Krillen looked up at his friend. "Goku," he patiently said, "remember how Bulma said that there are different kinds of costs to look at?" When Goku nodded, the small young man went on. "Big houses that come for not as much money usually come that way because something else is really, really wrong with it. For a place that's practically a palace like that to go for an amount we can afford? Well, my guess is that it's probably unlivable inside that place."
"That doesn't mean we can't look at it," Goku countered. "Aren't we supposed to keep an open mind?"
Chi-Chi scrunched her nose. "Not around refuse."
The tall young man sighed. "This is harder than I thought it was going to be," he mumbled.
Giving him a pat on the back, Krillen smiled. "Buck up, you!" When the others looked at him as though he had lost his mind, Krillen shrugged. "I dunno, it felt like a 'buck up' moment to me. Anyway, Bulma said that this could take a while, so there's no point in getting bummed over the little stuff right now."
Before they got any further in the conversation, one of the nurses came in. "Sorry boys," she said with a smile, "it's time for you to step out. We've got to make sure the little mama here is okay."
As the boys left, Chi-Chi timidly asked, "How's my son?"
The nurse gave a bright smile. "He's a trooper," she said. "You're lucky you came in when you did, honey, because it was a close call at first. But trust me, he's going to be alright. He's responding really well to the medication. In fact, he's a lot stronger than we could have hoped. His little lungs have gotten a lot stronger in just a little time, and in a couple months he should be able to be fed without the tube. It's going to be hard for a while, but as long as you and your family keep up with his needs, that little boy of yours is going to be a-ok."
"What kind of things?" the teenager asked.
The nurse's smile did not fade. "Well, he's going to need a lot of love, but I know you'll take care of that just fine. He's going to spend the next few months in and out of here, and when he's out of here, he's going to need to be watched pretty carefully. We're going to be sending him home with a little notebook, and some things that are going to need to be checked on a regular basis. And we'll make sure you have a list that will let you know what is and what isn't normal. Feedings are going to be a little trickier than they are with most newbies, but it's nothing impossible. Mostly, keep him dry, warm, fed, and loved."
The girl nodded. "Um…" It was so hard to start her next thought. She was still feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything that had gone on. Thoughts of getting a house and a new start on life had managed to distract her, but they did not make her real problems disappear from her mind. The corners of her eyes began to glisten as tears started to form. "I'm, um…when we leave, he's not…I'm not…"
"Honey," the nurse interrupted, "I know what your situation is. It's okay, you don't have to tell me about it. You're not the first girl who came in who needed some extra help to make sure that her babe was going to be well provided for. We're not as surprised by these situations as you might think. But I must admit, you and your little crew seem to be a little more, shall we say, with it than most of the others we run into."
Chi-Chi gently wiped the forming tears from one of her eyes. "Do you mean that?"
"I sure do," she answered with a smile. "Trust me, if you do what the doctors and your very nice social worker ask you to do, you will be able to make this work." Her tone changed slightly, growing serious as she locked eyes with the teenaged girl. "But listen carefully to this. You must do everything that they tell you to. Even if you think you know better than they do, even if you don't see the harm in straying just a little from your directions, you must follow the directions to the letter. There is no room for negotiation once they lay down the rules. Do you understand me?" She looked at the girl and noticed near terror in her eyes. "Honey, I'm not doing this to be mean or to scare you. I'm telling you this because you seem like a very nice, very together young woman who would do anything to keep her family together. I want you to be able to get what you want, and to do that, you need to know how seriously you need to take this."
The tears began to come back as the girl meekly answered, "I understand."
"Hey, Vegeta," Krillen yawned, watching his friend approach. "How's it going?"
"Shut up," the older boy huffed.
The shortest among them chuckled. "Oh, good, everything's normal."
Goku smiled at his friends. "Oh, Radditz and Bulma went out to get us food."
Another huff left Vegeta. "Yeah, right."
"No, they really did," Krillen defended. "They'll be back in a little bit."
Vegeta rolled his eyes. "They'll be back in a few hours," he sneered. When the other two gave him a confused look, he added, "They are planning a pit stop on his couch."
Goku leaned his head slightly to the side. "Wait, what does Radditz' couch have to do with them?"
"This from the guy who's girlfriend just gave birth," Vegeta grumbled.
As the other two figured out what they were being told, their eyes grew wide. "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa," Krillen quickly spoke, "they're what? They can't do that! I mean, that's not what…they aren't actually…they can't seriously…"
All Vegeta offered the young man was a one shoulder shrug before crossing his arms and taking a seat next to him. "I take it Chi-Chi is being inspected right now?"
"Yeah," Goku answered, still processing everything. "Um, are you sure that they're…"
"Between their conversation and the fact that they were playing tonsil hockey while groping each other," Vegeta interrupted, "yeah, I'm sure. Now can we please change the conversation?"
"Okay." But none of the three of them said another word for the duration of Chi-Chi's exam. Nothing but background hospital noise and uncomfortable silence surrounded them. As soon as they were given the all clear to enter the room again, Goku shot to his feet and sprinted inside, needing as much to know everything was okay with his girlfriend as needing to get away from the tension. The other two, however, held back.
"You know," Krillen softly said, "I never really thought the two of them would really hook up."
"You knew they had to," Vegeta countered, his voice cold and level.
"No, I really didn't." The younger of the pair shook his head. "I knew they were going to make out and whatnot, but to actually…I mean, they're like a real couple now, aren't they?"
Vegeta said nothing in return, simply adjusting in his uncomfortable chair.
"I always, thought…I mean, I was really hoping…" Krillen let out a long, tired sigh as he collected his thoughts. "Man, I had really hoped that I would have had a chance." His arms fell to his sides as he slouched deep against the chair. "I really did completely miss my shot. She's been with us for so long, but, well, the moment never seemed right. I mean, when she first joined us, it would have been weird, right? It would have creeped her the hell out to have this guy she doesn't know hitting on her with no way for her to get space if her answer was no. And lately I've wanted to ask her out, but I was kind of anxious about it, and it's not like we had money to actually go out or anything." Quietly, he looked over at his oldest friend. "And, of course, there's you."
A hard look was shot over. "What the hell are you talking about?" Vegeta demanded.
"Oh, come on," Krillen responded. "Anyone could see you wanted her."
"Hardly," he snorted in return.
Krillen rolled his eyes. "Please, you've had the hots for her since the first time you saw her fix something."
"You're delusional!" Vegeta defended.
"Oh, really?" Krillen challenged. "So you're not bothered at all by what they're on their way to do right now?"
Vegeta shoved his friend. "Shut up!"
"Come on, just admit it," Krillen pushed on. "One of the reasons I never hit on her was because I knew you were crushing on her, or at least wanted a hook up with her. Justify my lost opportunity and admit it!" Another shove. "Hey, you don't need to get violent about it!" Krillen defended. "Look, we all know it. Even Goku's noticed, and we all know how gifted his is on picking up on emotional and conversational nuances." Yet another shove, one that knocked Krillen to the floor.
"You don't know anything!" Vegeta hissed.
"I know more than you give me credit for," the younger man snorted, dusting himself off as he got to his feet. "You were the genius who pitched this idea in the first place. I kind of thought you were nuts, since you were basically telling the girl you want to sleep with to cuddle up and make out with another guy, but hell, you usually know what you're doing. But it looks like I'm not the only one who forgot to consider that those two might actually fall for each other, huh?"
Folding his arms tightly against his chest, Vegeta growled, "It does not matter. It had to be done."
Still dusting himself off, Krillen sat back down. "That's a yes," he mumbled. He shook his head. "So, how do we keep this from getting weird? I mean, I like her, you like her…"
"I do not."
Krillen ignored him. "…and Radditz got her. Got her got her. And while I have only a strong guess about you, I know that I, for one, do not feel happy about that."
Offering his friend a cool glare, Vegeta asked, "So what do you suggest?"
"If you are so unhappy about this," he challenged, "what would you have us do? Would it be productive to confront them and insist that they stop immediately?"
Krillen frowned. "You don't have to get so snippy about it," he pouted.
"And you don't have to be such an idiot about it," Vegeta countered. "Suppose you got your wish. Suppose you tell her that you want her and she immediately reciprocates. What happens then? What happens when Radditz gets pissed at you? What happens if someone catches you two together? What if the others decide to intervene? What happens if it doesn't go well? What happens if it doesn't work out? Tell me, what happens then?"
Quietly, Krillen folded his hands into his lap and looked down at them. As much of a slap in the face reality check as it was to hear the logic pointed out, the teenager caught the real meaning behind the words. It was a secret to no one, except possibly Bulma and Raditz, that there was a level of attraction between Vegeta and the former heiress. Krillen had even known about it when he had sworn to Radditz that no such bond existed. But there had always seemed to be a physical attraction, one without any real romantic interest behind it. Those words that had just spoken made something very clear to Krillen. Vegeta had thought about the possibility of a relationship with the blue haired beauty, and he had thought about it a lot. He was, whether he wanted to admit it or not, emotionally invested in her. And Vegeta had always had a difficult time truly stepping back from things he had actually formed an attachment to.
Still staring at his hands, Krillen worried about the suddenly realized hitch in their plans.
"And you're sure you're okay?" Goku asked.
Chi-Chi rolled her eyes. "Yes, sweetie, I'm fine," the girl insisted. "I still need to recover, but I'm not sick anymore and I'm healing well. Just like I was twenty seconds ago the last time you asked, and the twenty seconds before that, and the twenty seconds before that."
Goku, his cheeks turning red, sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry. I just worry about you."
His girlfriend let out a mild giggle. "When did you become such a worrier?" she asked.
"Honestly?" Goku responded. "It was the day we were sitting on the edge of your bed watching that pregnancy test turn positive."
Suddenly serious, Chi-Chi reached out and cupped her boyfriend's face. "You never told me that before."
With a shrug, Goku responded, "Well, a lot of stuff happened, and me telling you I was getting kind of stressed just seemed like something that didn't need to be dealt with." He closed his eyes and leaned his cheek into her hand. "I've always wanted to take care of you," he softly said, "and I sometimes do get worried that I'm not doing a good job. And now that we have a son, I'm worried about whether or not I'll be able to take care of him." His eyes slowly opened. "I'm sorry I haven't done a good job so far."
Chi-Chi rolled her fingers over his cheek. "Goku," she gently told him, "you have done an amazing job taking care of us so far. You stood by me when I needed you the most, even though it meant losing everything else you had. You gave up your home for me, Goku. You defended me, and you fought for me, and you stayed with me. And you have worked so, so hard to provide for us. You have taken every job you have been offered. You have done everything possible, and you've done it without complaining. And you gave us friends, ones who have helped us survive. You have been amazing, Goku."
Her boyfriend smiled. "Not half as amazing as you," he said. "You were always my rock. You were the dependable one. I just went out and found people who would rather give me money that lift something heavy."
The girl blushed. "I think we both know that I wasn't exactly the calmest person in the world at all times."
"Well, calm isn't the same as dependable," Goku pointed out. "If anything, it's even more impressive that you could be so dependable, even when you were, um…"
"You said it, not me!" Goku quickly pointed out. "And may I just say that you and only you could take the tiny number of different foods we have and keep coming up with stuff that tastes amazing. If cooking had been left up to any of the rest of us, I think we would have starved long ago. Either that or resorted to cannibalism." When his girlfriend gave him a slightly horrified look, Goku laughed. "Sorry. Old joke from Krillen."
"Aren't all jokes from Krillen old jokes?"
Goku laughed again and nodded. "Yeah, but that's why I like them." With a sigh, he leaned in and kissed the top of her head. "You know what?"
He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. "We really are the luckiest unlucky people in the world."
Chi-Chi smiled and hugged him back. "Only you could see something like that and make it sound like a real thing."
A few moments of happy silence went by before Goku brought up his latest information. "Apparently Raditz and Bulma are together."
With a roll of her eyes, Chi-Chi pointed out, "Yes, we were all there when that plan was mentioned to us."
"No, I mean together together," Goku clarified. "Like, doing what we do kind of together."
Chi-Chi frowned. "Did Raditz tell you this?"
Goku shook his head. "No, Vegeta did."
"Oh." She thought about that before asking, "How did he seem about that?"
Shrugging, Goku answered, "About as well as we thought he would. He's mad as hell but pretending he's not. And I think Krillen's kind of sad about the whole thing."
"I knew this was going to happen," his girlfriend huffed.
Again, Goku shrugged. "You guessed that this would happen," he countered. "None of us ever actually know what's going to happen. But anyway, I thought it was something you needed to know. Now don't talk to them about it."
"Why would I want to talk to them about it?" Chi-Chi asked.
"Because you've been the mother hen of the group since the day the group formed," Goku explained, "and you want to fix everything. But I think this is one of those things where trying to fix it is only going to break it more."
The teenaged girl sat quietly for a moment. Though she did not often admit such a thing, her interference in the matter really would only serve to enhance tension. There was nothing she could do that would not end up leaving just as many people miserable as already were. "Did you go look at our son?" she asked, changing topics.
Goku shook his head. "Not while we were out there, no," he answered. "I thought maybe we could go together. You know, if your nurse will let me kidnap you for a little while."
"She said I was recovering well," Chi-Chi mused out loud. "I think we might be able to." With the press of a button she was able to get the woman who had just helped her back in the room. While Goku was told he could not take Chi-Chi on his own, she was happy to accompany the young couple down to the NICU. It might not have been the intimate moment the couple had hoped for, but it was still nice. In spite of all the chaos and hardship they were up against, they were able to enjoy a little moment as a family.