THE WEEK AFTER CELL WAS DEFEATED...…
"I can't believe I'm doing this," Piccolo muttered, his words snatched from his mouth by the peeling air friction. He looked absently at the passing ground beneath him. He was flying slowly, which was stupid, he realized. It's not like delaying the encounter would somehow make his task any easier.
The small, mountain community loomed ahead, its air chilled yet friendly. It could have been just a brief pass-by to check on Gohan; something he would have done anyways, something that most likely would have sufficed…
"But you had to take it one more step, didn't you Goku," he brooded. The dull ache of anxiety tightened his chest as he remembered his friend's private words to him via King Kai when everyone else had left. The late Saiyan had hit him up in a moment of vulnerability; in a moment when he'd been so entrenched in respect for the man that Piccolo felt Goku could do no wrong.
"Goku?" Hadn't they already said their goodbyes? "Listen to me," he'd said in a deep, solemn tone as rare to Goku as joviality was to Piccolo. "I want you to help Chi Chi raise Gohan."
"Goku?" Hadn't they already said their goodbyes?
"Listen to me," he'd said in a deep, solemn tone as rare to Goku as joviality was to Piccolo. "I want you to help Chi Chi raise Gohan."
He was too stunned to piece together arguments on why that would be a bad idea. It was, of course, but at the time he was incapable of pleading his case. Goku had just given up his life for the earth, of all things. How could Piccolo possibly say no to the man?
And so here he was, descending on Gohan's household to have one of the most dreaded conversations with the most terrifying female he'd ever met in his life.
She set his antennae on end. Her rage and power over Goku had always unnerved him. And more disturbing than that was the way she affected Piccolo, himself. She intimidated him, something he'd reluctantly admitted after giving Goku his word. If she said 'sit', he'd sit. If she yelled at him to leave, he would. Her tone carried that much authority.
Well, not this time, you crazy woman. This time I'm on special orders from your own husband, and it involves Gohan. I'm not backing down…
The expressive face of an eleven-year old boy peeked through the doorframe as Piccolo descended onto their property. Sight of the youth, as always, uplifted him.
"Hey, Piccolo!" Gohan came running up to him, stopping just short of throwing his arms around the Namek's legs. Piccolo dropped to one knee, and ruffled the kid's hair.
Gohan smiled, but his eyes were heavy. Piccolo could see that the hurt of losing his father was still just under the surface and for a brief moment, Piccolo resented Goku for abandoning the boy.
He winced. Not abandoned… Gave up his life. There was a difference, however ambiguous it was as he painstakingly observed Gohan's dampened spirits. Besides, the boy's father had taken precautions to make sure his son was cared for, right? Even if it was at Piccolo's expense…
"What are you doing here?" he asked, and Piccolo did not miss the underlying words, not voiced, Can you stay for a while?
Piccolo rose to his feet, and looked forlornly at the house. "Is your mother inside, Gohan?"
Gohan frowned at him. "Yes…" Piccolo hadn't realized that his anxiety had somehow manifested itself in his expression. Gohan nudged him, the smile fading off his tender face. "Is everything okay, Piccolo?"
Piccolo took a deep breath, and pursed his lips. "Everything's fine. I need to speak with your mother, that's all."
Gohan looked at him, perplexed. "My mom?"
Piccolo felt his hands tingle in dreaded anticipation. He nodded. "Go play in the river, Gohan. I'll come and get you when the conversation is over."
"What do you want to talk to her about?"
Piccolo quieted the growl resounding in his chest. Persistent kid… "I'll tell you afterwards. Now go."
After a couple more suspicious and scrutinizing glances, Gohan shrugged and smiled. "Okay. Just promise you won't leave without saying goodbye."
Piccolo snorted. How about I don't leave at all? Gohan would be elated, as soon as Chi Chi was dealt with. "Don't worry, kid. I won't."
With that, Gohan raced off as only a prepubescent boy could to frolic in the water. Piccolo knew the conversation was going to get ugly, and the last thing Gohan needed right now was to see his mother and his mentor in a screaming match.
Resolved, Piccolo strode up to the house, and tapped on the door, only to send it shattering inwards, splintering loudly against the wall.
Oops…He cringed. Damn nerves.
Chi Chi came running into the front room. She was dressed in the black garb of a widow, her hair hanging about her face like a veil. "Gohan? What just…" then she saw him, and a her eyes immediately narrowed into a scowl. "What are you doing here?"
He frowned, trying to battle the butterflies that were fluttering in his stomach. "Chi Chi," he paused. It didn't matter how he phrased it. She was going to be pissed. Straight up, then, without adornment or apology…
She folded her arms menacingly across her chest and her left foot had started to stomp on the floor. "WELL?"
"Chi Chi," he breathed. "Goku asked me to…to…"
"Spit it out, villain, I don't have all day."
He swallowed, and took a deep breath. "Goku asked me to help you raise Gohan."
Her reaction wasn't unexpected, but it made him jump, nonetheless. Her eyes widened ferociously and her face reddened. She clenched her fists and crouched into a fighter's stance, trembling.
"He…what?" Her ki suddenly skyrocketed, and Piccolo found himself stunned at her power level. He blinked stupidly. Leave it to me to bring it out in her.
Piccolo started fishing for explanations. "He didn't want Gohan to lose his skills as a fighter, and asked me-"
"You're saying that my own husband doesn't trust me to raise our only son?"
Piccolo wasn't one for sugarcoating words, even when the occasion called for it. It was certainly the impression he'd gotten from Goku. He hesitantly met her belligerent eyes, and nodded.
Before he'd even realized she'd moved, a frying pan came whizzing at him and struck him in the shoulder. He flinched and snarled at her. She'd unwittingly aided him in quenching his pathetic nerves. The abrupt gesture sent him basking in a sensation much more familiar…
His voice rose, as he ducked and dodged another round of cooking pans. "He needs my influence, woman!" he shouted back, wishing for all the world that they could settle this by a good old fashioned battle.
"He needs YOUR influence like Master Roshi needs more PORNOGRAPHY!" She flung another dish at him, and he swatted it out of the air. "There is no way in HELL I'm going to let him be tutored by a reclusive…monstrous…evil-"
"Enough!" he barked back, wondering why in the world Goku chose him over all the other Z fighters for this task; the one whom she loathed most. "I've changed and you know that!"
"Changed?" She asked incredulously, hurling another chair at him. He grunted as it smacked him in the chest. "You - the fiend who killed my husband and kidnapped my son?"
He winced. She made it sound so bad. He actually contemplated physically restraining her until she calmed down, but the thought of touching the fuming vixen made his skin crawl. He'd have to talk her into it.
"This isn't up for discussion, Chi Chi," he said lowly, and as dangerously as he could. He powered up for emphasis, letting his energies swell against the walls of the house. "I gave Goku my word."
Her face opened in blatant appall, and two seconds later Piccolo found himself skidding backwards on his ass along with half the doorframe, having been literally hurled out of the house. He gaped at her. Perhaps Gohan's amazing strength couldn't all be credited to his father…
"You come here and tell me I have no say over my own son's upbringing? And then you try to dismiss me like a housemaid?" She hovered over him, her body rigid, her face on fire.
"His talent will go to waste if you raise him alone!" Piccolo yelled from his undignified position in the dirt. "Gohan is destined for greater things than scholastic studies." He jumped up as she charged him, and levitated into the air.
She swung at him twice and then growled as he was out of her reach. "Get out of here!"
"You're coming nowhere near my son, demon. Understand! I don't care how altruistic your intentions are. I don't want MY Gohan to be influenced by the likes of you!"
That made Piccolo furious. How dare she try to forbid him from ever seeing Gohan. The kid meant more to him than breath. Couldn't she see that?
Then he wondered what the hell Goku was thinking when he married her, the impossible female... No sooner had he thought it, than the words came blurting out. "What I don't understand," he yelled down at her belligerent form, "Is what kind-hearted Goku ever saw in a BEAST like you!"
If Chi Chi had an Achilles heel, then that was it. Slapping her face would have had less effect. He watched in surprise as her ki dropped and the rage drained from her body. Her face sagged in anguish, and her eyes teared immediately. She bit her bottom lip between her teeth, and turned her back to him. He'd hit a sore point. A real sore point…
He silently cursed himself. Agh, Piccolo…you ass. The nuances of communication had always eluded himsomething that never mattered until now. She just lost her husband a week ago, and here I am telling her she's an unfit parent and that Goku should never have wasted his time on her. He'd never had enough practice in tact, and the result was that he just broke Chi Chi's spirit when he was only trying to make her see reason.
He could hear her trying to choke back the sobs. For all her temperament, Piccolo hadn't even considered that the indignant woman could HAVE a breaking point. Before he could apologize, she ran towards the house.
"Chi Chi…" he went after her, only to stop abruptly as she paused in the battered doorway. "Chi Chi," he held his hands out, and then clenched them into fists. "I...I didn't mean"
With her back still to him, she held a hand up to silence him.
Piccolo watched in uncomfortable regret as Goku's widow wrestled with her emotions. She obviously had something to say to him before going back in the house, and this time he was going to listen instead of argue. The woman who had given birth to Gohan deserved more respect, something he'd forgotten when he was dodging her pots and pans.
He waited awkwardly until finally she bowed her head without facing him, her words barely a whisper. "You can have Gohan in the afternoons, Piccolo."
He blinked. Did she just…? He replayed the words in his head. Hn. She did… Piccolo's expression sank, feeling worse about the victory than if he'd physically beaten it out of her.
"Just remember," she said as she looked over her shoulder at him; her face flushed and wet with tears. "He's my son before he's your pupil."
Then she left him there feeling regret, guilt, compassion, and a whole slew of other emotions that the Namek had no idea how to deal with.