Okay, you asked for it! It's Sequel time...
To anyone who is reading this without its predecessor, you are encouraged to read "Ripples in the Water" first. I try to add in what might be unknown, but nevertheless it is highly recommended.
Before we get into this, I just have to warn you that you must not read this unless you are positively certain that you want to, and be warned that you are reading this at your own risk. I would put some sort of warning into this, but then we'd spoil the plot line! So if you come across something that you are startled by, you have one of two choices:
A) Freak out about it and stop reading, and never find out what happens.
B) Be brave and charge through the your startles, and you might like the ending.
Anyways, I hope you guys aren't too startled. But some startling is what I aim for.
This is a work in progress, so I doubt that the updates will be as often as "Ripples in the Water". No, scratch that, these will not be as often. I have some other stories that are in the works as well, and whatever I am in the mood for, I tend to write, so... you follow.
My DBZ Olympics story is in the works as well, but... I'm not entirely sure where it is. It's a little hard to work on it when I don't know where I am. So it's a little down on the 'to-do' list.
Otherwise, we pick up in the following fall of when "Ripples in the Water" ended...
The demi-Saiyan looked out of the window of the vehicle, watching the scenery move by slow enough to be in focus, but with enough speed that everything had limited importance. He looked up at the clear, cloudless blue sky with his head resting on his hand, which was being propped up by his elbow on the ledge of the window. The road was, at the moment, travelling through a wooded area, and the trees were already gaining a bright orange, yellow, or red tinge on their outermost leaves, while the inner counterparts still retained their green hue. Normally, they would have appeared to be very pretty to anyone looking at them, had they bothered to notice them at all. To him, however, the sight oddly made him think of the death of the trees- the discolouration in the leaves almost from the loss of circulation to those areas, so gradually that each leaf, a separate appendage, fell individually from its source of life, to wither and rot away on the barren ground- a very slow and agonizing process, not in the least bit pleasant or to be enjoyed by the trees or by the spectators. The young Saiyan watched countless trees go by, each enduring the same fate, and each giving him the same morbid thoughts. In truth, though, the thoughts were a nice change from what he was now accustomed to for the last few months.
The little vehicle suddenly entered a tunnel, allowing no further view of the forest or its dying trees. The attention of the quiet being was brought away from the outside world, to the interior of the car. He glanced at the person sitting next to him, in the driver's seat, but did not wait for the woman to return the look before he drew his gaze away. Her eyes were fixed intently on the road, her inexperienced driving evident by the tense expression that lined her face- although that could have simply been a product of something else.
Of course it is. The half-Saiyan thought.
The radio was playing mildly loud, but up until that moment neither person was paying attention to it, for mindless commercials were taking control of the airways- it was now like the programs were more of a break from the commercials, not commercial breaks from the programs. Finally, the ridiculous advertisements ceased and a clearly-articulating, monotonous male voice came on to break the momentary silence.
He began to talk about many "normal" news matters: the rising and falling state of the economy- making sure to emphasize the falling component- the political conflicts between opposing parties, and, above all, murders. Stabbings, beatings, shootings, and sometimes even homicides unique enough as to not be given a specific name, but rather the gruesomely in depth details of the execution. They were all listed every day- and the list never seemed to end. The most horrendous part of this was something that the young Saiyan, and so many other people, had realized: the murders were becoming to be a part of normal life. It was not unheard of now for someone to be found dead in their own home simply because someone was "bored" and found excitement in the thought of ending another's life. Nobody thought this to be okay- in fact, most people were repulsed by the thought- but you would rarely see a person give a second thought to another dead body listed among so many others on the evening news.
Every victim… they are just another photo flashed by, another name on a list, another statistic to their analyzing minds. They are not people, with families to care for, stories to tell, hardships endured, or feats accomplished. To them, they are just a part of a mathematical percentage. So many people are not only forgotten, but never even fully known to the public. It is impossible to honour an empty name.
It was true- any group that heard the news of 1000 dying in a mass murder, everyone would agree that "it's terrible", "unbelievable", "it's a tragedy", and that "something should be done", but there was never any true remorse behind the words. It was very rare that someone would actually be truly mortified by the news. The truth was obvious, but nevertheless unknown to the majority of people: humankind had become insensitive to the value of another's life- not only the murderers, but the indifferent bystanders that unthinkingly declared it "a shame" and continued with their lives. They had lost the value of human life, and could care less about the well being of others. There was only one person that mattered- themselves. It would be a rare occurrence to find anyone that even gave so much as a second thought to most other people, even their own family.
Suddenly, a change in the announcer's voice caught the attention of the twelve year-old. He found himself silently absorbed in the man's words, and attempted to swallow his uncomfortable, shaking breaths.
"...a shocking new development sociologists have uncovered was publicized today at a conference in East City. There has been an increase of 19% in deaths of children and youth in the past year, particularly in those aged eleven to seventeen. Further investigation into this development has shown that nearly 98% of this increase was caused by an increase in the number of suicides in this age range. Comparing this year to last year, the number of suicides for this age group has increased by nearly one-hundred and twenty percent. Sociologists studying this disturbing change are speculating that the media's negative focuses on might be partly responsible for this, but no conclusions have been made yet. Research is ongoing."
The newscaster moved on to another subject, and those present in the vehicle remained as silent as ever, but nevertheless the awkwardness that followed was unbearable. The involuntarily fidgeting adolescent grew frustrated at his own beating heart, for it seemed to pound ever louder, and he was almost positive that the woman beside him could hear it and his own discomfort. He did not dare to look at her at that moment, and remained hushed, pretending that he did not even take note of the message by gazing spaciously as was doing before. After what seemed like a fair time, he deemed it safe to take a glance beside him. However, the time elapsed was in reality much shorter, and his fleeting look was met by that of the woman, reflexively causing him to pull his gaze away immediately, almost as if he believed that she was not going to notice his look if he did.
He returned to his solitary thoughts, and eventually found himself contemplating why he so avoided the exploitation of his true feelings to his own mother. Then again, the relationship between the two was not exactly what you would hope for between a mother and son. Secrets and deception from both individuals did not build a trusting relationship. The actions that were done and- perhaps more importantly- almost done by the son were enough to cause any mother anxiety. She was trying to be subtle in her methods, but to her son the actions were completely obvious and revealed that she was aware of far too much.
Simply coming home for supper only to find his meal already cut into small, bite-sized portions was far from unnoticeable, as was sitting down at the table to see knives completely absent from the setting. Even afterwards, everywhere he went he could be positive that he was not alone- he was either directly accompanied by someone, usually his mother, or he could feel the presence of others close to him, but out of sight. He was never given any privacy, any time to be truly alone. He had lost that privilege. Nothing was said to him, either- supposedly these were simply actions taken with no motive behind them, but both the parent and child were aware of why such actions were taken.
The twelve-year old had tried to kill himself.
He could have done it- he could have ended everything, and made his life so much easier, but he did not. A talk with his life-long mentor had left him uncertain if he wanted to do so, if he was willing to let go of everything, to lose everything he worked for. He willingly passed up that opportunity, though he did not do so easily. Even now, he was starting to regret doing so- his life was far more difficult now that his mother was taking extra measures to ensure her son's "well-being". Nevertheless, he still was not sure if he wanted to end it all completely, but he was longing for some comfort. He was unable to find that comfort in the words or actions of others. He found consolation in his own actions- actions that gave him pain. Somehow the pain allowed his mind to break free of the normal train of thought that caused him so much misery.
He directed his gaze down at his arms, where he even now saw himself running his fingers along the forearm covered by a long sleeved, white dress shirt. A small twinge of tenderness came when his finger ran along the deep grooves that lay concealed beneath the thin material. Doing so had become a habit of his- and a bad one at that. There were going to be no more new scars to join the numerous ones that already existed, so now only by marring the ones that remained was he able to give himself relief- and it was not a very useful amount. Inflicting them upon himself, on the other hand, was so effective that for over a year he was able to continue on every day because of the relief it gave him.
Stupid, stupid, stupid… came his thoughts, as he recalled that it was he himself who threw his dagger away, in a well-intended attempt to recover from his depression. Afterwards, that attempt felt so meagre and idiotic. Now that everyone was aware of his mindset, he was not trusted with the liberty of using knives, nor was he able to find a razor, pair of scissors, or even a key present in his house, all of them "mysteriously" vanishing from their normal places. While he was extremely offended by the action, he was guiltily aware of that, if they were present, he probably would have used them inappropriately, just as he was expected to do.
But why shouldn't I be able to, he asked himself, it is my life, why can I not be the one to decide how I live it?
He gave a desolate sigh of uncertainty, catching his mother's attention immediately. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye, and saw him doing the same thing. She remained silent, for neither had spoken since they started their trip. Anxiety filled her entire mind, as she saw her son bring his attention away from her as he looked out the window again, his left hand unconsciously trailing up and down his right arm. She could almost see the scars that littered both of the undersides of his forearms. At the moment, she was positive that her son was still very much considering suicide as an option to get away from all of the hardship he was enduring- and that if he was given the opportunity, he would even do so this moment. She had been trying so hard to protect him from himself, but she was unsure of how to actually help him. She could not simply act as a restraint for his entire life- she needed to get him to see why his thoughts were wrong. If he never came to accept that, she was working for a lost cause.
She gave another glance to the half-Saiyan, only to see his eyes staring forwards blankly and unseeing, his attention clearly on his thoughts and not on what he was looking at. She did not like it when he was in deep thought- she was very paranoid now that he was contemplating on different depressing subjects. She would rather have him in the moment, perhaps even conversing a little, although she was lucky if he even said a word voluntarily. She hesitated before she acted, but saw the corner of his mouth begin to curl downwards in a mixture of annoyance and anger as his hands impulsively began to grasp tightly on his thighs. Her indecisiveness disappeared instantaneously as her eyes caught sight of this, replaced by a mother's impulse to look after her child.
"Gohan," she spoke firmly, pretending to not have taken her eyes off of the road. The young Saiyan's head's rose at the sound of his name, and he turned his attention to his mother, "How are you feeling?"
The Saiyan hesitated before he answered. His mother assumed out of uncertainty, but in reality he was resisting the temptation to say something sarcastic back. That had grown to be another bad habit of his- cruel sarcasm that he never used to possess.
How do I feel about being abandoned in my life, left with pointless options and no help from anyone? Oh I feel just wonderful; never better, mother, his mind immediately responded. He had enough self-control as to keep the comments internal, and gave his mother the answer she was expecting.
"I'm fine," and nothing more. He began to wonder if his lie was truly a lie if the question was not sincere either. He found it immeasurably hard to believe that his mother actually gave a second thought to his well being if she was willing to keep him in such obvious agony.
She just wants me out of her hair but needs to keep her conscience clean, chanted the well-practised thoughts, and part of him came to accept them. He knew that having to lead him around like a young child, protecting him from anything and everything was very tedious, and she was probably seeking an opportunity to dump him off onto someone else very soon. Part of him knew it was true, but nevertheless there was something else that told him he was false in saying this. It, in point of fact, did not tell him that, but more was wishing for her to not be thinking of him as a burden. It was a very juvenile desire- a desire to be loved and looked after, and he was very disgusted at how often he yearned for it. He did not want to be treated like a child any longer- he had experienced more horror, trauma and pain in twelve years of living than many people endure in their entire life. He was not aware of it, but he had lost his childhood far too early, and was thrust into his adult life before anyone was ever supposed to. Now, he was facing the consequences of this, for as he still experienced childish feelings, he felt they were as inappropriate for him as they would be for any adult. He was to be independent and strong, uncomplaining and tolerant, brave and selfless, and he could never, ever show that he was frightened, or scared, or tired, or any other sign of weakness. He was not aware, though, that in order to achieve this unreasonable goal, he was not going to be able to be attached to anyone. If being completely detached was his final objective, then he was edging closer and closer to it with every passing moment.
"Um… Chi-chi?" A quiet voice asked from behind her. Simultaneously, her head and that of her son swivelled around to the origin of the voice, both of their attentions on the bald-headed, short being that sat behind them.
"Oh, it's you, Krillin. I forgot that you were here- you were so quiet." She responded, her hand on her chest to calm her momentarily fast heartbeat and heavy, rapid breaths.
"So were you two…" the hairless being responded under his breath, hushed enough to only receive a reaction in the form of an ear twitch from Gohan. He regained his lost courage, and continued, "Um, did you not just pass by Capsule Corp...?"
Chi-chi gave a quick glance to her right side, and momentarily returned her gaze ahead before her mind comprehended the sight of the passing building, when she gave another, more alarmed look.
"Oh my! You're right, Krillin! I almost missed it," She squeaked in surprise, deciding to perform a sudden, inelegant, and undoubtedly illegal u-turn. Everyone present in the vehicle was abruptly tossed to the far side by the centrifugal force, Chi-chi remaining upright because of her firm hold on the wheel, Gohan simply leaning slightly to the opposite side to keep his centre of balance, and Krillin about to do the same when he found a softly howling being hurled his way. Reflexively, he managed to catch it but found its weight added to his too much for him to take the turn stylishly. He ended up flat on his face, but faultlessly holding the infant upright, above his inverted body, in a manner like a pedestal. The child found some humour in this, as it began to chuckle lightly in a very prominent tone.
The sound found its way to the ears of the demi-Saiyan sitting with his arms crossed, and he clenched his teeth as he was reminded of the presence of the child. He closed his eyes as he attempted to block out the sickening noise, growing more and more irritated at it as his energy involuntarily began to rise. The little infant shut his mouth, and looked towards Gohan, which brought the attention of Krillin and Chi-chi to him as well. As the demi-Saiyan felt his ebony locks lift off of his forehead slightly, he realized his mistake, and let a slow, deep breath out to calm himself. He blinked open his eyes, and gave a wary glance sideways to confirm his suspicion that there were three pairs of eyes fixed upon him. He averted their gazes, and did not disturb the silence as the watchers one by one decided to look away. The rest of the short trip to the building was silent, not to anyone's surprise.
Looking out the window, Gohan saw their destination- the immensely familiar Capsule Corporation, home of Vegeta, the Saiyan Prince, Bulma, the scientific genius, and their (being Bulma's) family. The vehicle pulled into the driveway of the building, and everyone exited it wordlessly as Chi-chi struggled and- eventually- succeeded in returning the vehicle into its capsule form, with a bright boom breaking the silence amongst the four people. This acted as a signal for their arrival, and an over-eager blue haired woman poked her head through the massive steel door of her laboratory, only to have the rest of her body follow as she recognized the guests and neatly walked up to great them.
"Hey there, everyone- I wasn't expecting you today. How have you been?" Bulma greeted very mildly. Her face was, by definition, considered happy, but compared to her normal overacting, shouting-across-the-room, speak-your-thoughts attitude, she was very reserved. She wore a large smile, but it was not her usual quirky grin. It was very formal, and her lips were very nearly twitching in an attempt to hold it. She only blinked her eyes once, then quickly began talking again, leaving her question unanswered, "How's the weather up by your way now, then?"
Chi-chi flashed a half-hearted smile, "It's been good, but getting chillier by the day. Yesterday I needed to pull out my jacket- I haven't touched that thing since winter!"
Bulma laughed lightly, though despite the fact that there was no humour in what was just said. It was the same mindless, pathetic chatter that Gohan was used to while they walked to the door of the main building, and he behaved in the same manner to this conversation as he usually did- keeping his depressed face down and mouth shut.
"...so, forgive me for asking Chi-chi, but why did you come here today? I didn't forget that we were meeting today, did I? I've been so busy working that I usually lose track of time," Bulma asked, before pausing and asking, "What day is it today, anyway?"
"No! You didn't forget anything. I just thought that maybe we should come over and pay you a visit. We haven't seen each other for a long time," the mother explained hastily, "… and today is the nineteenth."
Bulma hesitated, "...of what month?"
Chi-chi smiled and shook her head with eyes closed in amusement of her closest friend.
"Vegeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeta!" A sharp voice rang out through the large, empty-feeling building. The only response the woman got was a grunt that vaguely resembling an acceptance of her call, but that was all she needed to continue on, "Come out here, we have guests!"
"What? Why on Earth would I come out for more of your imbecile visitors? I'm busy now!" He retorted fiercely from the lower levels of the dome-shaped structure, his growling voice carrying up to the upper lounge area of the Brief's house in the centre of the Capsule Corporation.
Bulma began to fume slightly, but quickly found the words for her to answer with, "Why? If you don't get up here, you can forget about training Trunks for a week, that's why!"
There was silence, and then a soft mumble of defeat followed by the slow, disgruntled sound of feet falling upon marble stairs, each one becoming slightly louder until the irritated Saiyan Prince entered the room.
"Who could it be that is so important as to interrupt my sleep?" Vegeta saw the company after he asked the question, and found his eyes settling upon the half-Saiyan garbed in the unusually formal attire, with his hair combed and covered in glossy gel in an attempt to get it to behave normally, even though now it was beginning to defy this demand and return to its typical style of wandering freely. He stood at the further corner of the room, hands folded ahead of him as he gazed lightly to the floor from his position of leaning against the wall, lifting his head only to acknowledge the arrival of the eldest of the Saiyans. The two held their gaze wordlessly until their attention was brought to a small yawn originating from the child half-asleep in Chi-chi's arms. Vegeta raised an eyebrow at the sight of the defenceless child, surprise hidden behind his stubborn façade. He turned to the blue-haired woman and glared at her in his usual manner of communicating, deeming words unfit for the question that was far too obvious. She simply rolled her eyes at this, insolently answering the unasked inquiry.
"Chi-chi, unless you were so extremely ill-bred as to not notice, was preg-nan-t." She sounded out the syllables of the last word to emphasize her point, "and gave birth to another boy. This is just a little news-flash for you, considering this happened, oh I don't know, how long Chi-chi? Four months ago?"
Four months, one week, two days and eleven hours.
"…so maybe it's good that you are getting yourself out a little more often!"
Vegeta did not even flinch, "You seem to be forgetting that I am not the only one who seemed to be unaware of someone's pregnancy. At least it wasn't my mother."
Bulma's face nearly fell to the floor, while Krillin and Chi-chi both took a second glance to Gohan, whose gaze was still fixed upon the floor. A quick, unnoticeable glance upwards revealed to him that now they all were waiting for a response from him, and they each managed to notice him routinely stroking his arms. Some of them knew what that meant, and immediately diverted their gaze away from him.
Gohan released a small scoff, and the sarcastic thoughts whipped through his mind. However, something involuntary interrupted the thoughts before he could even complete them.
Oh, just p-
Gohan gasped for air soundlessly as he recoiled backwards a step, his head being tossed to the left almost as if he was punched in the face. Oxygen seemed to evade him for several weak moments as his lungs felt like they were being compressed into oblivion. His vision turned grey and blurred as his head lightened, causing him to almost lose consciousness. Had this been the first time the demons of his past returned to haunt him, he probably would have. Instead, though, he caught himself before he fell backwards and regained his balance, shaking his head a little to bring his mind out of the obscure haze it was settling into far too naturally.
As he came around, the first thing that crossed his mind was not the actual occurrence of the incident, but whether or not anyone else had managed to notice it. As he hastily looked around, he saw that Chi-chi, Vegeta, Bulma and Krillin had miraculously failed to detect it, but the infant in his mother's arms was fixated upon the sight of Gohan, simply staring at him with his tiny black pupils that were dilating faintly, as if the sight of his brother was too much for his tiny eyes to take in all at once.
He sat down on the closest chair to help relieve his light head, and blinked several times in an attempt to stop the room from spinning for any longer. He had learned from experience that this proved to be very effective, because this episodic event was far from a surprise to him.
Turns out, remembering several years' worth of wretchedness in the span of a few seconds comes with some side effects.
The abrupt re-telling of his life had almost seared the most painful of those moments into his subconscious, with the simplest and most everyday images or words causing a part of the memories to resurface and replay on cue. At first, it seemed to occur very rarely, because everyone who was around the troubled demi-Saiyan was extremely careful with what they said or did, because they didn't want to disturb him any more than necessary. After the days and weeks past, though, they seemed to get the impression that they could be a little less careful, because there were numerous more mentions of Goku, along with equal numbers of the same sequence for Gohan.
The pit of his chest would erupt in a paralysing shock-wave that came from the recurring recognition of a cruel reality, followed by a small portion of what little hope he had regained in the past days or weeks being torn from him and an obligatory session of self-hatred and a reminder of his failure. Even though the instigation could be prompted from polar opposite events, the same experience preceded.
As far as the half-Saiyan could tell, there were two different episodes for two different initiations: first being the one that would follow after any mention of Goku- either directly or indirectly- or one that would follow after any reference of Cell or his tournament. Unfortunately for him, the latter could be triggered by something as common as the trite word "Perfect" or- even worse- "Perfection". Gohan was pretty unbiased when he had to choose between one of the two options: the heart-jolting and unforgiving reminder of what he had done to his father, or the unrepressed and unstoppable torture of what he had endured through at the hands of the aforesaid sadistic creature.
The first is far worse, but… I am better able to hide it from everyone else. Tears mean nothing to them now.
A bitter truth, but it remained the truth nonetheless. He had lost count of the number of times he was at the mercy of that inevitable condition where he was unable to stop his shaking body and overflowing eyes, and there never seemed to be anyone who dared draw near him. Again, his opinion was torn two in this matter. Part of him begged to be held, comforted, and supported through his emotional turmoil. The other half, though, held a complete revulsion at the thought.
When the two opinions were brought together, the result was the classification of how Gohan's thoughts always felt- mind-numbingly contradicting, and besieged by confusion from over-thinking the simplest matters. Between the two opinions that the young Saiyan held, there was at least one thing that they held the same mind on- there would be markedly fewer headaches if the adolescent mind was reduced to just one set of thoughts. The problem was, there was no agreeing on which mindset was to be kept.
Gohan awoke from his reminiscence just in time to hear the tail end of another one of Vegeta's comments.
"…but I know that my father wouldn't have given a second thought to abandoning me. Still, I was partially responsible for his death, so I wouldn't say we were on the best of terms."
Chi-chi raised a hand to her mouth as Krillin took an opportune time to locate the washroom. Gohan flinched significantly, but withheld the sob that he choked on in his throat, feeling the very same sensation he was recalling only moments before, courtesy of the world's pitiless irony.
"Vegeta!" Bulma growled more than spoke, "A word with you, if you would!"
She dragged him to a neighbouring room and shut the door behind her, hushing her voice so that the other people could not hear their conversation.
"What is up with you, Vegeta? What do you think you are doing, saying stuff like that? Do you have any idea what sort of impact your words could have on Gohan?"
Vegeta huffed with his eyes closed, a cruel smile plastered across his face, "I know very well what I am doing by saying it. I don't know about here, but in my half of the universe suicide is not something we celebrate. He needs to be reminded of that."
"As it turns out, we do not act cruelly to those who are going through mental… confusion on Earth. We attempt to help those who are troubled! It would be nice if you tried it once!" The Saiyan Prince shook his head, never faltering in his smirk.
"Poor little boy. He managed to surpass us all in power, speed and fighting skill, killed that waste-of-an-android Cell, and got off with nothing more than a few broken bones. Let's all throw him a pity party."
"You know very well that he was hurt to more of an extent than simply a few broken bones! His father died. You know that he blamed himself for it, too!" Bulma kept her voice at a whisper, but she still managed to show her fury in a hushed shout.
"Why shouldn't he? It was his fault that Cell was able to blow himself up and Kakarot had to go and play hero for us. That's the one thing he's got right. I bet you even now, the imbecile is still staring at the ground, calling himself 'stupid' over and over in his head."
"That doesn't mean that we treat him like… like…" Bulma failed to find a word that accurately described how Vegeta treated the half-Saiyan, so settled for implying what she meant, "…that!"
"Humph. You sure are dense." Vegeta went on to explain, crossing his arms while curling his mouth into a frown, "It's not the fact that he was the cause of Kakarot's death that makes him filth. It's because he takes so much self-hatred out of it that he thinks he can go and off himself. There are few worse deaths for a Saiyan that are more dishonourable then by their own hand. But then again, the stupid child doesn't even know how to do that right."
Bulma was about to retort back, before Vegeta's head turned slightly to the direction of the door, his acute Saiyan hearing catching something she had missed. His notorious smirk gradually returned to his face, as he turned to Bulma and said matter-of-factly, "Oh, and turns out the little half-breed could hear us."
So there it is. Let's hope for some longer chapters this story, eh? Thoughts, comments, and advice are always welcome. Most importantly, though, enjoy reading!
Remember: Courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality.