Disclaimer: DBZ and all of its characters belong to Akira Toriyama. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
This takes place in the obscure events after the end of the Cell Games. Yes, some of the ideas in this fic are from (and thus credit is being given to) the wonderful Authors Velasa and Onyx. After reading both fics I was hit with an inspiration that took control of my body and wouldn't let me sleep until this got done. Not sure if there is really any yaoi or not; you make the call. And I tried (and probably failed) to keep Piccolo in character as he is at the end of the Cell Games. So try to keep that in mind. Thanks.
When the dust finally cleared and I could see once again, everything seemed to stand still. It was almost as if time had stopped. There was no movement, no wind, not a sound. I couldn't even hear my own ragged breath, or the pounding of my heart. All the pain I had felt only moments before vanished…in fact, my whole body felt numb. The glowing figure hovering about 400 feet in front of me flickered, then the light vanished and I floated paralyzed and watched my best friend's son tumble to the ground. I still couldn't feel anything, and only Piccolo's baritone voice broke through my stunned haze.
"He-he did it. Cell's energy has completely vanished." I could see the sheer awe radiating from his very form.
"But…you mean we're really safe again?" We had been fighting and training for so long the concept of safe just wouldn't sink in.
I could hear Tien and Yamcha talking, but my hearing failed me again. I think I may have suffered some brain damage from the aftershock of Gohan's attack. And from the sound of it, Gohan did too, because I have little doubt that he's in pure agony and yet he's laughing, laughing like it was some kind of hilarious joke. Kneeling beside him I can see the amount of damage he took. He really is something to still be awake after all that, I know I wouldn't be. Hell, after that I'd be dead.
"Look at him. Looks like saving the world can take its toll on you." Piccolo is standing behind me.
Saving the world took its toll on all of us.
"Hey, Gohan. Let me ask you something. Were you holding back-a your power all that time just to scare us? 'Cuse boy it worked. And don't worry about those burses, Gohan. We'll get Dende to fix you right up. You'll feel like a zillion bucks." There I am blabbing again. I can never find anything useful to do with my mouth save talk anymore.
"Hey I got ya big guy." The way Yamcha picks him up I can see that he really is just a kid. And that's scary.
"S-sorry for the mess."
Shit! Spoke to soon.
"Don't worry Krillin, he's just exhausted that's all."
I picked up Eighteen as an afterthought as everyone took off. After a second, I notice Piccolo isn't following. I stop and hover, turning back to catch sight of him engulfed in a blue light. I wait for him to catch up and bite my tongue before prying.
"You OK?" I honestly don't expect an answer.
After hearing my oldest friend say he would rather stay dead, I'm kind of at a loss. Yeah the world is safe, but it's a bittersweet ending, or beginning depending on your take on life. Either way things will never be the same ever again. We all kind of stand in a stunned silence at the foot of an otherworldly wonder and none of us even notices it. We don't notice a huge dragon hovering before us. We don't notice the two green humanoids standing among us or the boy who claims he's from the future. Hell, for that matter we don't notice that this is all happening on a huge platform suspended miles in the air or that we all had to fly to get here. We don't notice the fact that an eleven year old boy just proved that he's the most powerful being in existence by saving the world, no, the universe yet again. We don't notice anything, because we're all trapped within our own minds, attempting to take in what we've just heard and what we must now live with.
My best friend is gone. And he wants to stay that way. I can't fathom why he would want to do that. Why he would want to abandon his son and wife like that? Why would he want to abandon his friends like that? Why would he condemn the Earth like that? Does he hate us all that much? Is he afraid? The threat's over Goku. Who else is going to come and destroy the Earth? The Saiyans are gone save Vegeta, Trunks and Gohan. Frieza AND his father are rotting in a pit somewhere in the Resira plateau; and the threat from the past, Gero and his creations have been wiped out thanks to your son. GOKU! WHAT IS THERE LEFT TO FEAR?
Goku. You were all I had. When I left the Orange temple in search of Master Roshi, I had no intentions of going back; not that I really would have been able to. I gave up the only family I had ever known, my entire life, on a whim, and I was blessed to find you. You were my savior, Goku, and not just by saving me countless times. Throughout all of those crazy adventures, you kept me sane. You were always so happy, so brave, so confident, even in the toughest and hopeless of situations. And that gave me a target, that if you could live without fear or knowledge of your own limits then I could at least give it my all. And even if I failed, I always had you to tell me it was ok. Now what do I have? Your little boy? Goku, he's just a kid, you can't dump this on him. It doesn't matter if he's the strongest in the universe, he's still a child and it our job to protect and fight for him. And I'm not strong enough to do that. Not physically, mentally or emotionally. Goku. I'm nothing without you. I can't believe it took losing you to fully grasp that.
"Your wish. Make it. It is time."
Oh, right. We still have a wish left. Too bad we don't have anything left to wish for.
Even as we all stand around cracking jokes a part of me is trapped within my head in disbelief over what has happened in my life. Years ago, all of this, these people and events that have become second nature to me, would have been a wild and crazy dream. Flying and fighting. Traveling the world and to other planets. Befriending aliens and taking on robots of death all while protecting the Earth and hanging out with my friends. Ha. You know you and your friends are crazy when your definition of a good time is fighting the strongest being in the universe on a planet that's about to explode. But we've always been there for each other. Always. And we've always held onto that bond, reminds me of a family.
Since I've never really known my parents, I began to look to Master Roshi and Kami, my master and mentor, as surrogate fathers. They certainly cared about and treated me as if I was their son. We all started out as a mix of strangers, but we came to be a family. I have brothers and sisters that sometimes double as nagging moms, two dads and two nephews. As I think on my adopted family, I remember that I'm short a father figure, as Kami isn't here…well sort of. I glance in Piccolo's direction. No, he's not really gone, just changed form in a way. At that, I wonder if Piccolo retained all of Kami's memories, or just the important ones.
While training with the guys in preparation for the Saiyans, I confided a lot of my anxiety and fears in Kami. He would never detract from the real danger that lay ahead, but he also encouraged me to push further and reach for the impossible. I don't think I would have improved as much as I did without his guidance, both in my training and as a person. I owe him a lot. My only fear now is that I might not get to thank him for everything he's done.
From here I can see the tips of Piccolo's ears turning purple. He does that sometimes when Gohan talks to him. I finally realize how long I've been staring as I find myself looking into eyes that hold more knowledge than I could learn in a lifetime. Something that I've noticed about Piccolo is that his eyes aren't really black, their dark dark blue. Sometimes. Sometimes when he wants to scare the shit out of me, I catch a glint of gold from his Daimao days. But not now. Now they're just blue. Blue that's grinning at me. His lips still move in conversation with Gohan but I can see him regarding me. And in that instant, I see my old teacher's aged face in that flawless sheen of green.
I feel a slight weight on my shoulder and glance up to see the jolly green giant himself.
Whoa! When did he get so close?
"Kami, well, I…" I have NEVER seen Piccolo stutter, nor have I ever thought that he would be at a loss for words as he is now and I can't keep my jaw from dropping a little. I receive a standard Piccolo glare with fanged snarl and all, but it seems to lack the usual callousness that everyone save Gohan saw. He sighs, antenna and pointed ears drooping as a hint of blush creeps onto the Namekian's face. "We're….I'm proud of you." I guess he does remember me.
Just like when I was younger, I find myself staring at the night sky contemplating and over thinking things. In the days after Trunks left to go home, we all kind of went our separate ways. Tien and Chiaotzu disappeared into the wilderness again and Yamcha had an interview for a job as a personal trainer and is moving to South city. Gohan has been trapped inside by his She-beast of a mother hitting the books…hard. Vegeta mopes around Capsule Corp, Piccolo is staying at the lookout and I wind up back out here. I'm kind of at a loss as to what to do now. I'm in that limbo state where once you've completed a goal you've devoted your life to, you're confused as to what to do next. The problem is, I've been doing martial arts for so long (ever since I can remember), I haven't put any thought into what I want to do with my life when it's over and done with. I'm at a cross roads. I have no idea where to go or what to do. I've been playing superhero so long, I've forgotten how to be a normal human; although being the strongest human alive kind of puts a damper on normal living anyway.
Power. Coming from the East.
What does he want? I guess I'll find out.
He touches down about three feet away from me as I brace my arms behind me with my legs bent in the shape of a four. He is lack of his trademark turban and cape, making him look even more foreboding in the darkness.
"What's up, big guy? Thought you were gonna stay with Dende." A few years ago, I would have never attempted to sound so casual with the object of my worst fears, but then again, a few years ago he was still bent on killing Goku. Piccolo may have always terrified me, but he had this air about him, this kind of silent power and confidence that demanded respect. Even as Ma Junior I admired him for that.
"I needed some time away. Honestly I don't know how Kami could stand him. He's an obsequious toad." I can feel the irritation coming from Piccolo as he walks towards me and sits lotus style with his arms crossed.
I let myself have a chuckle at that, knowing full well whom he's referring to. Never thought I'd see the day that Piccolo pouted, because that is exactly what he's doing.
"He's just excited at having company again. I mean, after you left he was stuck up there all by himself. That and he's not sure how to act around you. You're Kami, but you've got the attitude of Piccolo. He's just trying to be hospitable."
"Whatever it is, it's annoying." I have a vision of a chibi Piccolo sitting in a corner with all of his toys taken away and I have to bite my lip to stop from laughing.
"You could stay here. For a while I mean. That is, if you don't mind sharing a room. Umm…" I think I may have overstepped my boundaries a bit….or by a lot.
We sit in silence and I lay back down pillowing my head with my hands. As strange as it is to sit here and talk with Piccolo like this, it reminds me of doing the same thing with Kami on nights I couldn't sleep. It's hard to wrap my mind around that Piccolo and Kami are now one in the same. The warm heart of my teacher and father figure is now the cold and callous Namekian version of a much wiser Vegeta. Though the reason he chose me to come to is still…weird.
"No offence, but why come here? I mean, I understand Chi-chi would forbid it, but why…"
"Let's face it; I'm not exactly Mr. Popularity. Gohan is off-limits, Vegeta's personality and mine match too closely for us to be anywhere near each other and I'm not exactly close with anyone else. Not to mention I used to be Piccolo Daimao." He opened one eye and gave me a pointed look.
"Ha, Yeah. Seems so long ago now." My chest wells up as a breath audibly escapes me. I guess he really is more Piccolo than Kami. It's a depressing thought, but he's still different from the Piccolo I knew before. In a way, it's nice.
"I've never seen this side of you, Piccolo. You've never acted like this, save for around Gohan."
"Ha, blame Kami; he was rather fond of you. And it seems to have rubbed off on me." The amused, mischievous smirk that tugs on his lips as he speaks is a rare sight indeed. "I'm glad".
"You two are really all I've got now."
I barely catch his voice, as if I was never meant to hear it. The vibrations of it span out in all directions and are lost in the wisps of the ocean wind. His face is much younger than his comment suggests and with the starlight reflecting off of his skin he almost looks innocent. Yet his eyes and stoop of his posture shows age and weariness won by years of hard battles and toil. What he must have seen to make him look so old and be so young, what we've all seen, can make even the most naive of fighters into old men. Those horrors are something that cannot be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.
Things like watching your friends die one by one without having the strength or the courage to do anything about it. Things like lying in a heap without the strength to move and praying to a God who no longer lives that your death will be quick. Things like watching an entire race of innocent people being slaughtered for a glass orb. Things like seeing thousands of people be turned into piles of goo and be…..sucked up and 'eaten' by a monster. Try as I might, I'll never forget those things.
And I'll never forget the look on Gohan's face as he watched his dad disappear, just as I'll never forget Piccolo's scream as he took the Saiyan's blast head on, or the tears Vegeta shed as he asked, no, begged Goku to kill Frieza for what he had done to their people. Seeing the best of the best, the strongest fall to such lows can make for one doozy of a wakeup call and make you realize how utterly weak and insignificant you really are.
Things like that you don't forget.
Things like that haunt you in the dead of night and make your chest squeeze into a ball in an eternal ache.
We all were once enemies, or at least rivals of some kind, but we all came together when the need arose and formed a kind of bond. From fighting alongside one another for so long, I've even felt as though we've become this really big, and not to mention strange and mismatched, family. We've come to protect one another as we would our own, and in a way, I think what we have between us runs thicker than even blood. Though now, the pillar that stood at our center, the glue that originally brought us together in the first place, Goku, is now lost forever. We all took an unexpected blow, and I'm not sure how we're all going to deal with it. We have to stick together. We're all a family now, and though they will never admit it, I think Piccolo and Vegeta see things the same way.
As the sky begins to color in the pre-dawn light, I'm struck by the memory of my childhood days of delivering milk with Goku. The nonsensical patterns and intense training that was meant to teach us endurance, concentration and discipline (though I didn't understand it at the time) brings a grin to my scarred lips. I miss those days of hard training and hot summer sea air that was so thick you could taste it. I miss Launch's cooking, and cooling off after dinner with a swim in the ocean, searching for sea shells and rocks. Where the only thing we had to worry about were training and getting stronger for the next Tenkaichi Budokai, where there was no more danger than The Red Ribbon Army. Days where Goku and I laughed and played as children should. But we're not kids anymore. We're not going off on adventures searching for the dragon balls and knocking around Pilaf anymore. We were fighting for our lives these past battles, and without the dragon balls, some of us would have lost.
I envy Gohan and our Trunks, ya'know. Admittedly Gohan went through the same stuff we did, but he is still a kid, and it was our job to protect him, not the other way around. He can be carefree and innocent with no more worries than getting an education and just being a kid. He's matured a lot since I met him seven years ago, almost too much for his eleven years. There are things he's seen, we've all seen, that no one should have to endure. But it was necessary; we had to see, because we had to fight, because the burden fell on us, because there was no one else it could fall on. It was our job, because no one else could do what we did and even though we won, there have been many more than just a handful of innocents lost in this seemingly endless epic battle.
But it has ended.
Because Gohan won. He outdid himself. He outdid us all.
"That was a very brave thing you did back there."
"Very brave and very kind."
What are you talking about, big guy? Oh, her.
"Anyone else would have simply killed her to be done with it. But you were filled with compassion, something that real warriors can't afford, and that is why you fail." Standard Piccolo: a compliment hidden by an insult. Though I can't help but feel as though he, or Kami (or both), is trying to teach me something, help me improve. And I know he's right. My less than brutal strategies while fighting have always been a major cause of my limits; though being human is a factor too. We can't all be as compassionate as Goku with the strength to back it up if things go astray; though I certainly tried.
"Though, I am beginning to see the flaws in our way of thinking…and it is good to know that that kind of kindness in a warrior did not vanish with Goku." That got my attention. Did he just admit that his and Vegeta's styles were wrong?
I almost spoke up. Gohan feels and acts the same. That's when it hits me. Gohan never fought because he wanted to. Not like Piccolo, Vegeta and Goku fought, for the thrill and need for it. Gohan fought because he had to. Because he knew people, people he loved, were going to die if he didn't. Gohan may be a Saiyan, but he's different from them. He has this kind of innocence and joyfulness that not even Goku possessed. He's the kind of person who draws people to them without even trying and can melt even the hardest of hearts. Piccolo is living proof of that. No, Gohan's not a true fighter and won't continue martial arts like us.
That when it hits me that I'm one of the last warriors the Earth has. Vegeta and Piccolo will continue to train of course, and Tien and Chiaotzu will always be out there hoping to catch up, but Yamcha won't. He'll most likely settle down somewhere now that we finally have a time of peace. And everyone else is either retired, an imbecile, or still a child.
Suddenly I don't feel so insignificant anymore.
I step off of the roof of the house I grew up in and float silently to the sand below. No, we aren't kids anymore; we've seen too much, experienced too much life to have any resemblance of innocence left. We can never go back to those days; we just have to deal with what we got.
All we can do is hold onto one another and look to the future, because all we have now is each other. The main support is gone, so to keep the structure from falling, the ropes need to intertwine themselves with one another, and I'm making the first attempt.
I don't hear anything save the ocean waves and the wind. I'll give a ten count before I go inside.
I can hear the call of the gulls flying over head as the sun barely breaks the top of the ocean.
I bet Master Roshi is gonna yell at me again for staying up all night.
I hear a faint thump of something heavy land on the sand behind me.