This is a series of one-shots (inspired by balthezarian) dedicated to the Son family. There will be no Goku-bashing in this story, or any character-bashing for that matter. I will not tolerate it. Thank you.
I don't own Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, or Dragon Ball GT.
Time Period: Post-Buu Saga
Gohan smiled up at the clouds, his arms crossed relaxingly behind his head.
He liked this. No; he loved having his family together as one. It felt good. Really good.
Hearing his mother's screams being directed at his father again, seeing Goten's mile-wide smiles when Goku hugged him every morning, and watching his dad laugh about something silly reminded him just how much he missed having him home.
The demi-Saiyan never remembered seeing his brother and mother so happy in his life. Having his father back home meant the world to him, and knowing that the full-blooded Saiyan had been granted a life and being told that he was back for good made him want to cry; both on the inside and on the outside. He could feel the tears prick the corners of his eyes just thinking about it. Even though he promised himself he would never cry again, he couldn't help it. After all, he always was an emotional boy.
Gohan blinked, his round black eyes filled with unshed tears. Quickly, he brought an arm up to shield his face. The last thing he needed was for his dad to see him crying. Had it been when he was younger, he wouldn't have minded, but he was practically an adult now. It was embarrassing.
"Hey, Dad," Gohan responded, resisting the urge to sniffle. Great, now his nose was turning red. Just what he needed.
Gohan could hear his father plop down next to him, the grass rustling against his blue casuals as he stretched himself out like a cat. At least he was lying opposite of him and not next to him. It made things all the more easier for Goku not to notice his puffy face.
"Why are you out here all by yourself?" Goku asked as he placed his hands behind his head, his eyes focused on the marshmallow-like clouds decorating the sky. It vaguely reminded him of the Otherworld, despite them not being yellow.
"I'm just thinking is all," Gohan answered, swiping his arm across his face before he placed his hand back behind his head, mimicking his father. He was pretty sure the tears were gone now. As were his red puffy eyes.
"Thinking about what?" Goku questioned, closing his eyes before taking a deep breath.
Gohan didn't want to outright say he was thinking about how nice it was to have his dad back, even though 100% of him didn't want to lie. His family didn't exactly tolerate lying. Especially his father. The last time person who lied to Goku suffered both the silent treatment and no help in searching for the Dragon Balls for almost two months. Not to mention said person needed assistance handling Vegeta. It was safe to say that Bulma never lied to Goku again. She was even luckier that he had forgot about the entire thing.
Gohan took a deep breath.
"How nice it is...," Gohan paused, staring up at the clouds. Having you back home. "Seeing Goten happy. I haven't seen him this happy in a while." Gohan flinched. At least he didn't lie. He had been thinking about that.
Goku hummed, a chuckle escaping his lips. "He has a lot of energy. Reminds me of myself when I was his age."
For awhile father and son basked in the afternoon sun, only the sounds of rustling leaves, chirping birds, and their faint breathing apparent. Gohan stared up at the sky, ebony orbs staring at nothing in particular. There had been a question plaguing his mind for the longest. He often found his thoughts lingering back to the day of the Cell Games, back to the day his dad gave his life away to save the planet Earth. He still, 'til this day, blamed himself for what had happened. Had he not toyed with the android, his father would've been home with him, his mom, and the new-born Goten.
But that wasn't what bothered him. Gohan was anything but the naive boy people thought he was. He could never hate his father. Not even if someone forced him to. But he couldn't help but feel a little heart-broken at the fact that the full-blooded Saiyan chose to stay in Otherworld over being with his family. It plagued him to no end knowing that for seven years Goten grew up without a father and that his mother didn't have a husband, and that he himself sailed through his adolescent years without his dad around. Although it was true what his father had said - Goku had a knack for attracting trouble anywhere he went - Gohan couldn't help but feel slightly bitter about the entire thing.
He just wanted to know one thing.
"Dad?" Gohan called.
"Hmm?" Goku answered, his eyes still closed.
Gohan pinched his lips together. "... Do you have any regrets?"
That made Goku open his eyes. "Regrets?" he asked, his round black eyes blinking back confusion.
Gohan stirred a bit, his deep blue training clothes crunching the grass beneath his body. "Yeah. Is there anything you ... ya know, wish you could take back or start over in your life?"
Again, an eerie silence enveloped the duo, increasing Gohan's anxiety. Before he could say 'forget I asked', Goku spoke.
"I regret not eating that last piece of chicken for dinner last night that's for sure," Goku said jokingly, even though he was dead serious. Despite the joke however, Gohan didn't laugh. It just wasn't funny. Not when his mind was being haunted by his father's absence all those years ago. "But honestly," Goku continued, positioning himself so that he was sitting upright in the grass, using his hands for support as he leaned back on his arms. "I regret dying. I missed seven years ... years ... that I can't get back."
Gohan felt his heart lurch. Oh Kami. The tears, they were coming back. And he couldn't stop them. He released a strangled sob as he brought his arm back up to shield his face.
Goku turned his head to glimpse over his shoulder, Gohan's quaking form shivering in the grass. "I'm sorry Gohan. For not being there for you. For not being there when Goten was born and growing up. For not being there for your mom. I know that an apology won't fix anything, but I truly am sorry for not being there. I figured that by me staying dead, things would've been safer for not only our family but the entire world. But apparently, I was wrong. Majin Buu was a testament of that."
Gohan couldn't control himself. Soon his entire arm was wet with sticky tears and slimy mucus. He felt as if a heavy burden was lifted off of his chest. All he ever really wanted was to know how his father felt about it. When he had told him that 'just because he was strong didn't mean he didn't need him', he had meant every word of it. But to hear his dad apologize for what he did wrong (even though he didn't do anything wrong) and knowing that he regretted his decision made him extremely happy. It was an indescribable feeling. Gohan sobbed harder.
"You've turned into an extraordinary young man. I only wish that I could've been around to watch it happen," Goku continued, leaning back further as he basked in the warm rays of the sun. "Promise me you won't make the same mistakes I did, 'kay? When you have a family of your own, never leave them. Cherish them, love them. I never wanted to make you, your mother or Goten feel as if I didn't love you. And, I want you to stop acting as if my death was your fault. It was my own fault. I love you son. And ... I'm real proud of you. And I don't ever want you to forget that. You're more of a man than I've ever bee-"
Goku was cut off by the abrupt tackle of his eldest son from behind. He could feel the teenager wrap his arms tightly around his body and pull him close, his body trembling like an earthquake. Goku froze, reminding himself of the time Gohan had left to fight Majin Buu on his own. When Gohan had hugged him, he had wanted nothing more than to hug him back. Hug him with every fiber of his being. But he knew that if he'd done that, he wouldn't have never found the heart to let him go.
Slowly, Goku wrapped his arms around his son, burying his face in Gohan's spiky black hair, a loving smile tugging at his lips.
"I love you too Daddy," Gohan cried in Goku's chest.
Yeah, Goku thought.
He definitely regretted it.
This is my take on how Goku felt about his absence between the Cell Games and appearance of Majin Buu.
Honestly, I don't peg Goku for being a bad parent. People keep calling him an absentee father, but due to the circumstances that plague the Earth, can you blame him for being away so much? Everything that he's ever done has been for his family, friends, and Earth. He's the most selfless person in the show, so he at least deserves to be selfish sometime! Plus, he pretty much grew up for the better part of his life raising himself, so where, exactly, was his father-figure? I wish that his friends would stop relying on him so much. He's just one person and even if he can do it by himself, I'm positive that Goku doesn't want to do it by himself. This is his reasoning for leaving to train Uub; because there needed to be another savior of the Earth. Goku proved his point in the Buu Saga before his fight with Kid Buu. He will not be around forever and it's going to take more than just him to save the world all the time.
Sorry for the rambling there ... thanks for reading! :)