This fanfic is based on: Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z & Dragon Ball GT.

Chapter 1

Age 774 A.W (May 8)
Son Residence. 3 hours after the defeat of Majin Buu.

Goku sat quietly on the couch, eyeing his wife from beneath hooded lids.

Oh, he was making a great show of listening to every single word Goten was reciting from atop his lap — a great show indeed. But really, his mind was on his wife. Not that he wasn't interested in Goten's rapid banter— he was. He was interested in every word. Kami! He'd already missed all 7 years of Goten's life. He wanted to know everything. Everything there was to know about his new found son and more. So it wasn't lack of interest in Goten's stories that had him distracted. Not that at all.

It's just that ... well, he couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right with Chichi. The whole day— from when he'd arrived from Otherworld to right after the final fight with Buu— Chichi had been disconnected. Quiet. And even though he'd been gone and dead for 7 long years, he knew that her behaviour wasn't right.

He shifted Goten's position on his lap, turning him around so he could get a better view of his wife. Goten didn't even seem to notice. He was too busy talking. Too busy cracking himself up. Too busy laughing. And Goku so wished he could be right there to share in his son's joy.

Only ... Chichi had been scrubbing hard at the same pot for half an hour. One pot. A full half-hour. And he knew it was half an hour because he was keeping tabs on the time. He was keeping tabs on the time because of her expression: tight jawed and narrow eyed as she attacked the pot with what looked like a permanent scowl.

What could have happened?

They'd come home from the Lookout to a huge feast. A mountain of his favourite dishes piled high on every conceivable smells ... the colors ... the textures! Man, Otherworld had nothing on some good o'l Chichi cooking.

Looking at all those goodies that had been meant for him, well, he'd felt a little reassured. The food was proof that Chichi was happy to have him home again right? Proof that he'd been wrong about things being off. 'Cause surely, if something were really wrong, she wouldn't have gone through all the trouble of putting on such a festive welcome. Well, he'd been wrong to feel reassured because Chichi had spent the entire dinner staring blankly at her food. Twirling it around her plate without so much as a word. Not to him, nor to the kids.

And after dinner? Well, she'd just up and started on the dishes. And hours later, she was still at it. Only, there was nothing left to wash, except for that same pot she was continually scrubbing.

Running his fingers absently through Goten's hair, Goku thought really hard about what could have happened. But the truth was ... even now as he sat watching ... he couldn't think of a single moment where his wife had appeared happy to see him. Not one.

She had carried a blank expression the whole day, as if none of the dramatic events of the day had affected her. And Kais knew today had been one of the most dramatic days the world had ever seen. That he'd ever seen. And he'd seen a lot of drama in his time. So for Chichi to have carried a blank expression all day on such a day? Through everything that had happened? He knew he wasn't the smartest out there, but even he knew that it wasn't right.

Though — he cringed just remembering. There had been that other time. That one specific time. Chichi had not been blank then. Oh no. Not at all. Not during that one time he'd dared approach her at the Lookout.

See, when he'd announced that Vegeta and Gohan had died, he'd had a stone lodged in his throat at the thought of Chichi's reaction. Her baby, her little boy .. killed. It had been one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do. Chichi loved her children more than anything and to have had to tell her about Gohan's demise in that way ... in front of everyone? He would have given anything to spare her that. To spare himself that. To his shock though, only Bulma had shown any signs of grief. Chichi had simply turned away. No fainting. No screaming. No crying. Nothing at all. The stone in his throat had moved down his gut, clogging him with fear at her non reaction. He'd been truly afraid that she had gone into some kind of fatal shock.

Worried, he'd meandered his way towards her. Every instinct in his body screaming that he comfort her. So he'd begun by gently placing his hands on her shoulders — big mistake. Huge. Like a wild cat, eyes blazing in a fury he'd never seen, Chichi'd lashed out and attacked him. Actually attacked him. Clawed at his eyes with her nails. Bit him. Took a chunk out of his skin with her teeth.

"Don't touch me!" she had screamed. "Don't you ever touch me!"

Even now, hours after the fact. It still made him shudder just thinking about it. It had taken Krillin and Yamcha's combined strength to subdue her. And it's not as if they'd walked away from the incident unscathed. If he hadn't been so paralyzed by shock, he might have been proud of her strength. But he'd been that shocked, so there'd been no taking time out to appreciate how much stronger she'd gotten in his death. No. His brain had only functioned well enough to note that once they'd finally had her subdued, she'd suddenly gone back to her default expression. That blank, lifeless one. As if the whole incident hadn't happened at all.

But it had happened. The missing chunk of flesh on his chest was a constant reminder that it had. That Chichi was clearly not alright. That things were not alright.

Goten laughed just then. Turned his precious face up to his with a big expectant grin. It tugged at his heart. His son was beautiful. Perfect. And he'd missed watching him blossom. He wasn't sure what he was laughing about ... or what that expectant grin was so ... he flashed a grin of his own and that seemed to do the trick. Goten flashed him a thumbs up and went right back to telling his story.

And Chichi ... she was still at it with the pot. Fury humming around her like the screams of Kid Buu himself.

Again Goku thought back to earlier in the day. Was it something he'd said? Something he'd not said?

He remembered that after demonstrating SSJ3 to the boys during their Fusion training, he had desperately wanted a moment alone with her to talk. A moment to talk before Baba came to transport him back to Otherworld. In fact, thinking about it now, he had been trying to orchestrate a private moment to talk to her the whole day! But somehow, Chichi had always stayed well out of reach.

When he'd first noticed Goten at the tournament, she'd left it up to Gohan to introduce his brother to him. He hadn't thought much about that until much later at the Kai planet whilst waiting for Gohan to finish his training. He'd thought a lot about the day's events then. And he'd d realized with horrific clarity that his wife had not uttered a single word to him. Not one. Not the entire day. Not unless he wanted to count: "Don't touch me! Don't you ever touch me!"

Which he didn't.

And finally, when the battle was won and the earth restored — he'd hoped that his news of being fully alive again, of coming home for good, would crack through that blank façade. He'd hoped that the news would earn him a smile. A hug. A kiss. A look even ... anything. It hadn't. Chichi never reacted. She'd just stood there and watched, completely unaffected like some kind of damned statue. It was downright … unnerving. For the first time in his life, he'd wanted to scream at her. Shake her. Force her to acknowledge him. But in the end, he'd just done what he always did: smiled. And cheered. And shared stories.

He'd played catch-up with all their friends until it was time to come home. And though he'd smiled through it all, inside he'd been sinking lower than the pits of is why he'd been so shocked upon walking through the door. To walk in on that ginormous 'Welcome Home' banner had surprised and delighted him. To walk in on that ... plus all the food? Well, he'd been so relieved he'd allowed himself some false hope.

And now? Well. Now ... he was sick of watching her antics with that damn pot! Sweet Kais above! The thing must be ready to crumble from all that ferocious scrubbing!

He sighed, bringing Goten closer. Hugging him. The little tyke had fallen asleep in his arms. He sent a pleading look to Gohan, who had spent the last hour or so of Goten's banter deep in his own thoughts. With a quiet nod, Gohan rose from his chair, scooped up his brother and began to walk him to their room.

As he passed his mother, Gohan stopped and whispered: "I think it's clean now." And then he disappeared around the corner towards the bedrooms.

Well, at least Gohan had also noticed the rather unusual attention received by that damn pot. Goku was glad to have some confirmation that he wasn't making a big deal out of nothing. And Gohan's words were that confirmation. She paused at Gohan's words. Without a second thought, she dropped the pan back in the sink. She offered a genuine smile towards the two disappearing boys, then wordlessly followed behind them.

Nothing to him. Of course. Why break the routine by sparing him a word now. Or a look. When she'd done her best to ignore him all day? Why bother to acknowledge that he existed at all? He was only her husband!

With a heavy sigh, Goku leaned back against the couch and contemplated his next move.

~0~0~

Damn that dragon. Damn that dragon.

Disappearing around the corner, Chichi had only one thing on her mind: Damn that meddling, insufferable, incompetent poor excuse for a dragon! She stomped to her room without missing a beat.

Damn him. Damn him straight to dragon hell! She wiped her wet hands down the front of her apron.

Curse him. Blast him. She placed her hands on the round doorknob and twisted the door open.

Damn that over-sized, steroid taking, stupid Porunga to the devil!

And with a soft click, she entered her room and closed the door behind her.

A small breeze from an open window blew at her hair as she leaned against the door and slid down its length. Unceremoniously, she allowed her body to flop to the ground as she took a dozen gulps of air.

I survived it. She closed her eyes and sighed. She'd actually survived it. There had been moments. Oh yes, there had been moments. Moments when she'd felt her resolve crumbling. Moments she'd been sure she wouldn't survive. Moments ... Okay. Okay. So she had crumbled. But only once. Only one tiny little bit. And that ... given the trying day she'd had? Once was not half bad at all. Once was more than she would have thought herself capable.

She drew up her knees and banged the back of her head against the door, groaning at the memory of that one time. All day she had kept it together. All day she'd kept her resolve. All day. That is ... until he had dared to lay his filthy hands on her. Just thinking about it made her want to claw her eyes out. She hadn't meant to lose it but ... it had slipped out. Of its own volition. It had taken over. The 35 year old pent-up-fury. Couldn't be helped she supposed. One slip was not the end of the world.

She'd survived the day. That's all that mattered.

But still ...

She still couldn't believe that all of this was happening to her. Just yesterday, just yesterday she'd been 90 years old damn it! She'd been a 90 year old prune, bitterly going about her business! Yesterday she'd sensed her time nearing. She'd sensed it and been glad for it. Glad to be leaving this wicked, ungrateful world. Just yesterday, she'd been welcoming death like a drowning man welcomed breath. She'd been a 90 year old, close to her death with only one piece of unfinished business. Just one. One little piece she was determined to take care of before finally falling gratefully into the waiting hands of death. And it was because of that one piece of business that she was not 90 years old anymore. Not 90. And not dead like she'd longed to be.

She bit into her scalp with her fingers. God. How was she supposed to survive all this again? How was she supposed to survive another round of empty years married to that man?

If only she'd left well enough alone! If only she'd forgotten about that one piece of unfinished business!

Well. She'd been stubborn and obstinate and now ... everything had backfired. Oh. How it had backfired.

The thing was: Many, many years ago, her husband had disappeared. It had been the biggest shock of her life. Goku had suddenly up and left. Just. Like. That. Carrying that blasted Uub on his back. She had been shocked. Upset. Who wouldn't? But ... it was Goku after all. Spontaneity was one of the things she loved most about him. So she'd been shocked and upset at first. But had quickly gotten over it. She had not been expecting him to disappear for Ten. Blasted. Years! She had been expecting him back home after a few months. There was to be a tight lipped lecture on her part. Some shamefaced grovelling on his part. And then they were to make up and pick up where they'd left off.

Pah! As if!

Ten years. Ten years.

And when he did come back ... he'd been in a pint sized body of a ten year old! Not only that, but he hadn't even been motivated to wish himself back to his normal age! So she'd been a 50 year old woman stuck married to a child! They had fought. A lot. She couldn't take seeing him like that. Couldn't take that she'd been abandoned for 10 years. Especially given how little remorse said husband-child was showing. Goku had honest to God not seen the big deal in leaving his family for ten years. Let alone the big deal about returning as a child! It was all systems go as far as he was concerned. No mess. Therefore certainly no need for fuss.

Then came the trip to space. To be honest, that trip with Pan and Trunks had been a reprieve. It had given her room to breathe. Time to calm down. Enough time to come to terms with her new situation. Enough space and time to actually miss her husband. To look forward to seeing him upon his return. To look forward to growing old and grey with her Goku by her side.

Pah!

That never happened either. This was Goku after all. Naturally, he'd found more trouble in space. Trouble that followed him home in the form of that egg-laying abomination called Baby. A whole series of battles and destruction had followed instead of their happily ever after.

And again, after all the dust was settled, she had again, been foolish enough to look forward to finally having him back home. Even if it was in the body of a little kid. She had been patient for so many years. Missing him. What did it matter that he was a kid? She'd figured he could always transform into that hairy adult version of himself if the situation really called for it.

By that point, she hadn't really cared how he came back to her, she'd just wanted her Goku back. Her husband back home with her where he belonged. But oh no. That was not to be either. Goku had simply taken off on the back of Shenron to never be seen again.

Ever.

And like a fool, she had again believed with all of her foolish heart that this last stint was just a trip. That it was one final adventure for rest and recuperation. She'd fully believed that he'd be able to get his body back to its rightful size and return. That in a few months the ordeal would be over and they'd all be a family again. Well, the months had turned into a year. One year into two. And She'd still waited. Still believed with everything she was that Goku would be then two years had stretched and stretched until they'd turned into ten.

She'd turned 60 with no Goku in sight.

And as the years began to stretch into decades, she'd begun to realize the ugly truth: Goku was gone. He was gone, and he was never coming back.

Well ... at least not in her lifetime. She turned 70 alone and miserable, knowing she was only human. And for your ordinary human being, anything after 70 was borrowed time. Bonus years really. By 70 she'd known that she could fall to her death at any time, and Goku was still nowhere in sight. And she had almost died. At 75 she'd suffered a massive heart-attack that had nearly left her for dead. Unfortunately, she'd lived. She'd lived to face another 15 years of Goku's absence.

She'd truly been unable to wrap her mind around it. Unable to accept it. She would sit outside their home in Mt. Paouzu all day, every day for weeks! She would just sit there staring out into the horizon. Willing. Hoping. Praying that her husband would finally come back to her. She didn't want to let herself believe that the man she had loved with such abandon, could be so cruel. So callous. So selfish as to actually do this to her. But no matter what she did, or did not want to believe, the truth was written in every second that passed without his reappearance. He was that cruel. That callous. That selfish. He was. And he was never ever gonna answer for it either.

She'd died inside. Lost her joy for life. Her children and grandchildren had done their best for her. Their best to fill the empty hole that was her soul. But no amount of grandchildren or great-grandchildren for that matter, was ever enough to fill the black hole developing in her heart.

In his old age, Yamcha had always remained optimistic that Goku would just appear out of nowhere one day. Appear and give their collective old age some meaning and excitement. It was weird, but Yamcha had taken Goku's disappearance rather hard himself. His old age had been difficult and lonely. Even more so than hers. He'd literally had no one. Puar long gone. They had formed an odd friendship in those last years. Two old buggers, clinging to the hope that Goku would return. Return and shed some light to their pointless existence.

Yamcha had died waiting. One day his heart had given out. And whatever faith she'd been holding onto had died right along with him.

She had finally snapped.

She didn't remember exactly what became of her during those dark days. To hear it told: She'd literally lost her mind. She would mistake Goten for Goku. She would either verbal lash him to death or even worse ... try to love him to death. Goten. Her sweet little boy had been traumatized. That dark period took a toll on her children. They were never been the same.

Goten was never the same happy go lucky man he'd been. And that ... that had taken a nasty turn in his marriage. By the time she'd come out of her mental illness: she'd finally given up on ever seeing her husband again.

She had simply withered. Had aged rapidly. Her body descending into the last stages of old age as her soul blackened. Hardened. Until she knew what it was to truly hate. She turned 80 hating him. Turned 90 despising him. Begrudging him any and every happiness he might have been enjoying after abandoning their family.

Her only solace: imagining all the ways she could make Son Goku suffer in the afterlife.

Except ... she was pretty sure the hateful man would live forever just to spite her. Just to deny her the satisfaction of having a go at him for all his crimes against his family. Or if he did die, they would probably end up in different parts of Otherworld anyway. He would go to the fighter planet and she ... well, she would simply float away as a cloud like the rest of the useless dead. Which meant, whatever the scenario, she would never get a chance to confront him.

And that's the kind of thinking that had landed her in her current predicament. That's the thinking that had her gunning for that one piece of unfinished business.

She had decided that no matter what: She absolutely refused to die before giving Son Goku the biggest verbal lashing of his life. She refused to die before telling him how much she hated him. How much he had destroyed her. Just how much he had failed at being a husband. A father. A grandfather. A friend.

So she had cooked up a big stink and forced her children to take her to Namek.

On Namek, she had asked Porunga to open up some form of communication portal. A portal that would allow her to talk to her husband. To talk to him in whichever planet, plane, or realm he happened to be in. She'd wanted to have her say before she dropped dead. And Kais willing — to spit her contempt in his face.

But that stupid dragon. Gods! That stupid. Incompetent. Poor excuse for a dragon had dared to say that it was not within its power to reach Son bastard dragon had said that he could not grant her wish. What a load of crock! He, who had restored the earth back into orbit. He who had resurrected billions and billions of lives that had fallen at the hands of Buu. He who had been as mighty as to do all of that with just the glow of his monstrous dragon eyes, could not, would not grant her one tiny, infinitesimal wish.

She had realised then that the whole universe always had, and always would side with that abomination of a man over her. She had realised then that even in death, even in the afterlife, she would never ever be granted her justice. She would just have to suck it up, like she had always had to. Only this time she would have to suck it up and bottle it in for years. Decades. Centuries. Infinity and beyond.

True hopelessness had enveloped her then. She was 90 years old, about to die with nothing. She was to have nothing at all. And truly, what was the point of existing at all, if one couldn't even have the hope, the small hope that one day she would get her dues?

She'd tossed her walking stick aside and picked up rocks with fury burning a path down her lungs. Rage fizzling out the remnants of her life force. She'd hurtled stones at Porunga. Stooped for more and flung those at it too. Never mind the shock of her children. Never mind the appalled elders of the Namekian race! She bent down on her rickety old bones crying — no, wailing unrepeatable insults at the beast as she tossed up sand and stones and grass and insults. Anything she could fling at the insufferable being.

She'd truly wanted to hurt that thing. Tear it apart like King Piccolo had done to its cousin on earth back in the day. How dare It? How dare It? It was all for nothing of course. The stones fell harmlessly away. Never reaching the colossal being. The stones and sticks only kicked up a fuss of dust and choked her.

And it was suddenly too much. Her heart had already been cracked and bruised by Goku's inconsiderate treatment. Old age had also taken it toll ...

Within seconds of her failed attempt to maul Porunga, each part of her cracked heart gave. Pieces began to chip off. By the end of her pathetic excuse for a tantrum, it had finally given out. It shattered into a thousand weightless specs. And scattered all over that accursed New Namek. With no fight left in her, she had given into death. Muttering uselessly as old people were prone to mutter.

"How I wish I'd done it differently when he came back after those seven years!"

She'd merely been muttering for goodness sake! And for all his talk of not having the power to grant her real wish, Porunga, that meddling scum of a dragon had decided to take her literally. When she had closed her eyes on New Namek she had been expecting to open them up again in Otherworld. She had been looking forward to it. She had been done with living. Done.

Instead. She had opened her eyes very much alive. Alive!

And not just alive, but in hell. Alive. And back in Mt. Paouzu. Alive and back in her youthful body. Alive and back to that accursed day of the 25th World Martial Arts Tournament. Alive and forced back to relive this cursed life all over again!

This is what her one piece of unfinished business had done to her when she had been so close, so close to eternal peace. So here she was: No longer 90. No longer dying.

Here she was: her bum firmly on the floor. Her back against the wooden door. Unsure. Just how was she supposed to deal with this reversal of time? How was she supposed to re-live, re-do all that had already happened? Any little thing she could have changed might have altered the course of the future for the worst. It was not her right to interfere with the destinies of others. It was not her place.

It had been the most trying, most difficult day of her 90 years.

She might have told them all about the outcome of Videl's fight with that over-sized brute Spopo-whatever. But ... that could have changed things in a way she could not have predicted. For all she knew it might have created a different path for her daughter-in-law. A path that didn't end with her falling in-love with and marrying her son. So she'd grit her teeth and suffered through the fight.

She might have told them about Majin Buu. About Vegeta and Goku's fight feeding energy to release the monster. She might have told them that Buu would absorb her sons and Piccolo. She might have warned them that Gotenks did not posses the maturity to be an effective warrior. She might have interfered with a lot of things. God knows she'd been tempted. Oh how she'd been tempted beyond endurance! But ... any change, any little alteration might have changed things for the worst. She was no genius but she'd known that much.

So she had stayed put. Zoned out and followed through her part like an act in a play. And Kami knew she'd only survived it by distancing herself from it all.

She had forced herself not to lash out at Goku when he'd first arrived from otherworld. The bastard had disappeared for 35 years! Oh. It had taken everything she had and more to remain rooted to her spot. She had just told herself not to look at him. Not to make eye contact with him.

She had willed herself to be calm. To remember that though he was the same man who would go on to blacken her soul, lashing out at him would accomplish little. He would not understand. He did not remember any of what he'd done. Or more accurately - he did not remember all the things he was yet to do. All the pain he was yet to inflict. So confronting him with it all would have been useless.

As if that was any consolation.

So she'd been left with playing her role. Playing it so well that she'd even marched up to Buu on the lookout. Slapped him. Knowing he'd turn her into an egg. Knowing she'd be squished to death.

Yes. She had done her best to play the part of the thirty-something year old widow whose youthful body she was masquerading in.

She could do nothing for her mind and her soul though. Despite her smooth and youthful appearance, despite her strength and agility, she was still the same 90 year old who had longed only for the release of death.

But when he had dared lay his calloused hand on her shoulder, shortly after explaining that Gohan and Vegeta had been killed, she had lost all the restraints. Decades upon decades of pent up fury had come flooding out. And well, let's just say — Goku, Krillin and Yamcha got a small taste of the rage she was dying to unleash upon the unsuspecting Saiyan.

But, the day was over and done with now, the dust had finally settled. The problem was that ... that man would be coming up to bed soon.

She laughed. A low, chilling laugh when she recalled how eager she had been for him on this day, 55 years ago. All the promises he'd made to her.

Heh.

No doubt he was down there plotting to dish out those same empty promises today. Well, he could knock himself out. She wouldn't be fooled this time round. She wouldn't be fooled at all.

The problem was ... she still didn't know how she was going to play it.

She couldn't make dramatic changes. That could affect the future of her children unfavorably. Trunks from the future had more than demonstrated that little bit about the butterfly effect. So she did not want to mess around. Especially now with Gohan and Videl due to fall in-love.

Also ... Goten was due to have the time of his life getting to know his father. If she killed him in his sleep, or maimed him, or simply kicked him out ... she might inadvertently change Gohan and Goten's paths. Change was not bad in itself, the issue was ... she couldn't guarantee that it would be for the better. And where her children were concerned ... she wouldn't take any chances.

Which begged the question — what was she going to do?

She stiffened at the sound of the approaching footsteps.

Shit. Goku was coming.

She sat. Completely rigid. Barely breathing from the tension that had suddenly invaded her body.

The footsteps were getting closer and closer.

She clenched her fists and grit her teeth. Damn it! She still didn't have a strategy!

The footsteps didn't care, they stopped right outside the door.

She could feel her heart beating like a rock'n'roll drummer in the throes of a concert. Oh God no. She swallowed. Her restored muscles clenching in her stomach as sweat beaded on her forehead.

The doorknob turned. And she instinctively pressed her back harder against the door. The small pressure from the other side cracked the door slightly ajar. So she pushed back, killing the opening.

Another small nudge from the other side. "Chi?" Goku's voice permeated through the small space. "Is something blocking the door?"

Her veins glazed over. She didn't know what to do! She wasn't ready to face him alone. The way she felt about him— she would never be ready to face him alone.

"Chi?" He called out again. And she still didn't answer. She merely pushed back the door. Shutting it. Hopefully shutting him out for good.

Only ... Goku's form materialized right before her eyes, fingers touching his forehead.

Her stomach dropped. Damn him and his accursed techniques!

~0~0~

Goku didn't fail to notice how quickly the surprise on her face at seeing him appear right before her eyes turned to anger. That didn't puzzle him. Not particularly. She'd always hated him using IT in the house.

What did puzzle him though ... what had him blinking as he tried to reason something out was what she didn't do. Or more accurately, what she didn't say. The wife he remembered would have yelled his ears off for scaring her half to death. She would have huffed and puffed and stomped around as she expressed her displeasure in several ways before deflating completely.

Her temper was like a balloon. Quick to inflate and expand, but then ... one pop and boom — all gone.

That was the wife he remembered.

This Chichi though ... this Chichi just sat. Stiff and cold. And stared. Stared with eyes so cold they burned. He'd faced such looks before. Many enemies had looked at him over the years exactly as Chichi was looking at him now. It was the kind of look that said: I have no words for how much I hate you. Yes, unfortunately he knew that look. It's true that his enemies had always hated him for different reasons, but the look in their eyes was almost always the same.

He shifted on one leg, uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of such a stare from his wife. Uncomfortable to be in their home where he was clearly not welcome. Uncomfortable in his skin really. He'd always faced hatred bravely. Most times without a care. He'd always defeated the enemy in the end, so what did it matter how much they hated him?

But this was different. This was his wife. His Chichi. This was the one person who'd always, always looked at him with soft adoring eyes. With love. As if every breath he took was something to marvel at. This was the one person who'd always made him feel larger than life. Always. He swallowed, his stomach twisting in knots like the grooves of Buu's neck. There was no way he could face her expression bravely. No way he could be nonchalant. This was his wife.

It was scary to look into her eyes and not see the things he was used to seeing. It really scared him. Scared him like the time he'd woken up screaming because he'd swallowed a whole lot of needles and they were stabbing him from the inside. Scared him like the time on Kame Island when his brother had taken his son, leaving him powerless on the sand, unable to stand or fight back. He took a deep breath. His senses were immediately flooded by the familiar scent of freshly washed bedding. He loved that smell. It was the smell of home. Of comfort. Of happiness. Of a life with Chichi. A life with family.

He'd missed such smells in Otherworld. He couldn't even enjoy them now. The room was too heavy for that; too thick with the weight of her silence. Her stare. Her cloak of coldness. She must have taken his refusal to come back to life much harder than he'd thought. And ... with Goten and all ... he supposed her anger at him would have reached its boiling point. Still, he had to know so ... He squatted down to her level instead.

Chichi visibly stiffened. God. Seeing it. Seeing such a reaction...

He closed his eyes and willed the hurt away. He could do this. Had to at least do this much. Otherwise—

Leaning in, he took a few lingering whiffs around her. Drawn by her smell. Her aura. The very essence that was purely her. Hmm... She smelled the same.

He fisted her hair and roughly crushed her face against his. Kissed her. Hard. Practically forcing his entry through her tightly clipped lips.

Her eyes widened. Teeth sinking into his lip. It stung. Really stung. But ... she tasted the same. Soft and moist and delicious. She tasted like Chichi.

He ignored the quiver of her nose. The characteristic twitch of her upper lip— he knew what it meant. He just chose to ignore it. Just as he chose to ignore the movement of her hand as it swung out— her palm connecting with his cheek in a loud slap.

It barely tickled. Compared to being whacked over the head by a log of wood or the flat of a frying-pan ... compared to the many ways she'd knocked him around in the past, this was nothing. Only ... the force of that slap ... the emotion behind it ... it was so raw it threatened to lay him lower than he'd been all day. So he also chose to ignore it. He had to do at least this much.

Carefully, he scanned his senses along the silhouette of her Ki-structure in slow motion. Ah. There was no mistake. This was Chichi. Not an impostor. Not a double. Not a shapeshifter nor a body-snatcher. Just ... Chichi.

He sighed. Well. That was that.

Straightening his knees, Goku grabbed at her hand and brought her up with him as he rose to his full height.

She flinched violently at his touch. And something that felt like glass shattering rattled in his chest. Especially as she began to pull and tug, trying to yank her hand out of his like his hands were made out of acid. "Don't touch me!" she spat.

He let her go. And she nearly fell from the force of trying to get away from him. Her chest rising and falling from the exertion of trying to free herself from his touch.

The knot in his stomach twisted even further. He hadn't felt this since Raditz. This apprehension. This not knowing. He hadn't felt it since being outed as an alien.

See, when Chichi hadn't embraced him right away at the hospital ... he'd worried that she didn't want him anymore. Didn't want an alien pirate for a husband. A monster who could turn into a giant ape. A monster whose real heritage was mass murder. He had worried, and fretted and driven himself crazy in that hospital. Frightened by her disregard. Her coldness.

Well, he'd been down that road before and it wasn't pretty. No way was he going to walk down it again. It was best to attack head on and know. Even though sometimes ... knowing the truth was ten times worse than staying ignorant.

"Why?" he croaked. His voice raw. "I know a lot must have happened in sev— "

"You. Gave. Me. Up!" she cut him off, poking his chest with her finger in perfect rhythm with her words.

He swallowed. "Chi— "

"Save it for someone who cares!" she threw behind her shoulder because she was already marching away from him. Storming into the bathroom and shutting the door firmly behind her.

It was like a cold hand was clutching his throat and he couldn't catch his breath.

He could only stare after her. At the closed door. At the thin cracks he recognized on the wood from 7 years back. He'd always meant to fit in a new door. But there'd always been training and —

He took in the rest of the room. The floor, the four walls — nothing much had changed. Same paintings on the walls. The solidly built bed frame, the same single double window, the same pale billowing curtains that always did a dance with the mountain breeze... all of it was exactly as he remembered.

He ran his hands down his face and sat down at the foot of the bed. The mattress too depressed just as he remembered. It could easily be the night of the Cell games. Save, a picture or two of Goten. Otherwise, everything else was the same.

But it was all a lie. The sameness of the room lied. Nothing was the same. Not if Chichi couldn't even bring herself to argue with him. Fight with him. Yell at him. Hell he'd even take her biting chunks out of his skin right now. Anything but this disinterest.

Whatever hope he'd been harboring was completely exhausted. It hurt. It hurt in ways he hated hurting. Like waking up to find his grandpa squashed by a monster. Like lying crippled on the ground while an all powerful alien stole away with your four year old son. Like watching, paralyzed as your best friend blew up into smithereens. He hated feeling this way. He'd never, ever wanted to feel this helpless again.

But he was. He was. And all he could do was sit with unfocused, achy eyes at the bathroom door.

~0~0~

The sound of the bathroom door shutting behind her was like a balm to her soul. A most welcome sound. A sound keeping him in there while she was in here. The sound of distance. Of not having to share the same stale oxygen with him.

She was still trembling. Shaking. Her body fighting a maelstrom of emotions. How dare he? How dare he touch her? Her brain was plagued by the life she'd already lived, enraged at having to live again with someone who'd caused her so much pain.

Her hands shook as she moved to the wash basin, shakily turning knobs. She splashed several bouts of cold water on her face and tried to breathe.

Calm down. Calm down. She told herself, gripping the silver faucet so hard she could see the veins in her pale, pale hands. But she couldn't calm down, her body was wracked with tremors. Hate was a terrible, awful thing. She couldn't just turn it off. It clotted her veins and polluted her every breath.

How dare he? How dare he kiss her like—

Like she was his wife.

Oh God. Reality. Reality bubbled to the surface and sprayed her senseless with it's stupid logic.

She blew out a breath. Of course he'd kiss her. The unrepentant bastard thought she was still her. The old Chichi. That poor, ignorant, gullible and malleable fool he'd married.

She stared at her flawless reflection and flinched. No grey hair. No liver spots. No wrinkles. Ugh! She certainly looked the part of the young gullible fool.

She couldn't do this, she realized. Just being in the same room with him had sent her from zero to boiling point in a second. How dare he look so hurt? So wounded? As if he wasn't the same callous creep who was fixing to abandon his family for 3 decades! Just thinking of it —

The world began to fade out of focus. Her ears started to ring. Oh no! Her eyes, her thoughts ... her memories were threatening to kick her sanity to shreds.

She could feel it — the familiar clouding of the mind. Wild, angry spots of color. Darkness in all its shades closing in.

Quickly, she outstretched her arms and pinched the tips of her fingers in a meditative position. Slowly breathing in and out. They had taught her this little trick when she had been committed. And it had saved her from the darkness countless times. In and out. In and out, she breathed.

But for some reason, knowing that he was out there, waiting in her bedroom — Urgh! The technique just wasn't working!

She turned on the tap and cupped cold water instead. Splashing and splashing and splashing her face until her heart eased. Soothed. Until the world began to make sense to her again. The darkness evaded. For now.

She grabbed a towel and dried herself off, scoffing at herself as she remembered how she'd reacted that first time.

See, originally she had listened to him when he'd come home after those 7 years. She'd believed his promises. Rejoiced in his return and the starry eyed future it promised. Only to be dropped like a hot potato a mere 10 years later while he played the hero in Uub's village.

Well. There'd be none of that this time round. She wouldn't give him a chance. She was too old for that kind of song and dance, too weary at heart, too tired.

Besides, it had been a long and taxing day. Keeping up appearances was just exhausting! It was truly the stuff for the youngsters. Old fogies like herself were not cut out for it at all. She was already experiencing phantom aches and pains for crying out loud! How could she not when yesterday her body had been old and achy? And in desperate need of a walking stick to get by? Every single move had been a chore. So her body may have been revitalized today, but her mind was still that of yesterday. And in response, her body was aching tiredly like that of the old woman she was used to being.

She knew it had to be more psychological than physical, but she didn't care.

All she wanted was a good night's sleep. Who knew? Maybe she'd wake up tomorrow to realize that this awful day was nothing but a nightmare. Maybe she'd wake up in her rightful 90 year old body, conveniently dead and entering Otherworld.

But she knew better of course. All the wishful thinking in the world wouldn't make this mess right. The only thing she could do now was to pull out her cosmetics and begin her night time routine. There was the cleanser, the toner, the night cream, the eye cream, the —

She scowled at her youthful reflection and flipped the young woman looking back at her in the mirror the finger. Screw it! The wrinkles would come anyway. She needed sleep!

So she simply took of her clothes, left them in a crumpled heap on the floor and stormed back into her bedroom.

~0~0~

Goku's earlier confidence was shattered.

This was uncharted territory. The Chichi he had left behind 7 years ago had thrived on arguments. The woman would talk him to death if she could.

But this Chichi: he had seen it in her eyes — she was done talking to him. She was simply not interested in anything he had to say.

How could that be though? Sure, 7 years was a long time to be gone. He realised that he had never actually said goodbye to her. Had never given her much of a choice in his decision.

Hell, he had missed out on Goten's entire life! He knew he'd made some very big mistakes. But … he was home now. All he wanted was a chance to make it up to all of them. A chance to be a good husband and father. How was he supposed to get through to her? How was he supposed to win her over, if she didn't even want to talk to him?

Truly, this was not the homecoming he had been hoping for.

She emerged in her underwear. A few tendrils of hair slightly wet and stuck to parts of her face.

Huh. The clothes she'd been wearing were crumpled carelessly on the bathroom floor.

Goku did a double take. Since when? In all their years of marriage, Chichi had never once left clothes in a messy heap on the floor.

She looked magnificent though. Goten hadn't been hallucinating at all. The tell-tale signs of their training were imprinted in every toned muscle on her body. Chichi really had been training their youngest all these years.

This was another concept that surprised him. Chichi had loved martial arts when they had first gotten married. After Gohan was born though, slowly but surely, she had begun to inch away from it.

The day Gohan was born, she had confessed her fear to him. She had confessed that she still had nightmares sometimes. Nightmares of Piccolo blasting a hole in his chest. She had held their newborn son and wept, begging him to always protect their son and himself from Piccolo.

And as it turns out, that had been the first promise to her he'd broken. Just like in her nightmares, a mere four years later, Piccolo had blasted another hole in his chest. And then, he had kidnapped little Gohan.

No matter the extenuating circumstances, it had been her biggest fear come to life. And he'd been powerless to stop it. So the fact that she had voluntarily, without coercion or emotional blackmail trained Goten, was astonishing.

He watched quietly as she came to a stop beside their wardrobe. She flung the doors open with unnecessary force and stood on toes as she began to pull out bedding from the top shelves.

His heart sank.

One by one she tossed the items towards him. He caught them easily, without protest. Chichi had strict rules about most things. After Gohan was born, if they had a fight that lingered over night, instead of making him take the couch, she would make him sleep on their bedroom floor.

She always maintained that Gohan would worry if he noticed that his parents were not sharing the same bed. So she'd never kicked him out of the bedroom. She didn't want her little boy to worry.

She'd tossed him everything he'd need to make himself comfy on the floor. A thick fluffy comforter to sprawl on. A blanket to cover himself with and an extra pillow.

Still without a word or so much as a glance in his direction, she closed the open wardrobe and did something else unexpected: she did not pull out one of those night dress things she always wore to bed; she did not sit before their dressing table to brush out her hair and she most certainly did not pull out all manner of cosmetics for her face.

She climbed straight into the bed instead. Effectively shutting off any further hopes of communication by firmly turning her back to him.

Huh.

Things were not the same at all.

Goku sighed, and started tugging at his boots. He wondered how she would react if he ignored all her hints and simply climbed into bed and started kissing her senseless. Truth be told, his body was reacting as it always did to seeing her in her undies. It wanted beside her. On her. In her.

But he knew he had to let that idea die. He was no genius, but his instincts had always been powerful. And something told him that if he so much as dared to touch her again without her consent, he may not survive the night.

He lay on the floor with the extra blanket loosely covering his bare torso waiting patiently for the soft sniveling and whimpering that usually accompanied such nights.

When he had still been alive, especially in those last three years whilst preparing for the androids, he would find himself on the floor a few times a month. He never actually spent a full night of course. At some point during the night she would start crying, very softly, in an effort to hide it from him. But his ears were just too sharp for such a thing to escape him. He would crawl back into bed with her, hold her close as he murmured soft words of comfort.

In turn, Chichi would cling to him and eventually fall asleep with his bare chest or vest soaked to the brim with her tears. He would brush her long hair with his fingers until he too succumbed to the soft call of sleep.

But this night, his eyes grew heavy long before any sounds erupted from the bed. It had been hours and yet Chichi had not made one sound. She'd barely made a movement even.

Goku propped himself up on one elbow, peering up at the bed.

She couldn't really be sleeping peacefully could she?! Not while he lay here, worried sick about their situation! She couldn't possibly care so little for his feelings as to enjoy a peaceful slumber in these circumstances?

But a feel for her Ki with his senses said otherwise.

Chichi was dead asleep, peacefully at that!

How could she? How could she be so cold? How could she fall asleep so easily after abandoning him to the floor without so much as an explanation?

He fell back to the ground and gripped the corners of the blanket tightly. His heart filling with a completely new and foreign emotion.

His throat burned, creating a raw path all the way to his stomach.

What was this feeling? Whatever it was, he was too tired to give into it.

With a conflicted heart, he blinked back the prickling in his eyes, and finally let his heavy lids fall. Tomorrow, he told himself. Tomorrow he would make her talk.

~0~0~

A.W: After the Wish

B.W: Before the Wish

~0~0~

Review please!