Title: Back to Normal
Characters: Gohan, Videl
Genre: Romance, Introspection
Notes: It's debatable concerning what actually happened after Buu. They sort of skipped it. The general public didn't have their memories erased until six months passed, so I'm assuming that after that point, they wouldn't remember Buu anymore—or dying—but they would remember that bad things happened at the tournament, and that Gohan was Saiyaman. Or at least, that's my take on things after re-reading the manga. Either way, I always felt that Videl was probably even more overwhelmed by the entire Buu thing than anyone. Finding out everything was a lie, she really wasn't as great as she thought she was, et cetera and so on, would be just overwhelming. One last thing: I know it's been an eternity since I posted here, but I hope this makes up for all of my older, badly-written stories. ;)
With the defeat of Majin Buu out of the way, things in Satan City returned to normal. It was on a Thursday morning that Son Gohan returned to school after the memories of the general public were erased. He arrived early, for once, and he took his seat beside Erasa at the end of the row and stared straight ahead.
The seat felt the same as it always had—not uncomfortable, but not designed to be slept in, either. The air smelled the same, a bit musty, like books and posters and masking tape. Erasa and Sharpner were making a lot of noise, just as they always had. The teacher rummaged through her desk and made thoughtful expressions as she finished preparing her lesson.
Everything was normal. As if nothing had changed at all. As if Majin Buu had never happened. To his teachers, his classmates, the world, nothing was different, not really, not anymore.
Gohan allowed himself to smile, then, for just a moment, a little bit to himself.
And then Erasa nudged him in the side, "Gohan," she asked, "did Videl tell you she was sick? Because she sure didn't tell me! Me—her best friend!"
He blinked once, twice, and looked to the right, where Videl's usual seat was empty. Sharpner was leaned back in his chair with his arms over his head, and when Gohan shifted his gaze to meet his, the other teenager simply lifted his shoulders slightly in a shrug.
"I-I don't know," Gohan finally said, confused. "I didn't think she was sick."
"Well, I didn't either!" Erasa chattered on, "But I guess there's this awful stomach virus going around, you know? I hope she didn't get that one—I mean, who's going to take care of all of the nasties out there if Videl's puking her guts out? Other than you, of course, Saiyaman." She winked.
Gohan felt a pang of sympathy for his dark-haired friend even though he really wasn't sure if she was sick or not. She had been fine just the other day, hadn't looked or sounded sick at all.
He suddenly wondered if maybe something was wrong, after all. And the more he thought on it, the more it bothered him—the thought of something being wrong with Videl, generally wrong, with no specifics attached, though he wasn't sure why—and he found his fingers tapping irritably against the tabletop in front of him.
After a few moments, just before the bell rang, Son Gohan stood up.
"Uhh, bathroom!" he shouted, and made for the door.
He found her in her bedroom, sitting at her desk. Only after he rapped anxiously on her window did she seem to notice him, but after a moment she unlatched the lock. "Hi," she said.
"Hi." There was an awkward moment of silence, where Gohan wasn't sure what to say—or if he should say anything. Finally, he made an attempt. "You weren't in school. Are you sick?"
She didn't look sick. She looked normal, wearing capris and an oversized t-shirt.
"I'm fine," she said. "I just—" she sat on her desk, "—couldn't go back there. Not today. Not yet."
"W-Why?" he asked, her slumped shoulders and tired eyes throwing him off-balance.
She lifted a pen from the cup at the corner of her desk and twisted it absent-mindedly between her fingers, screwing and unscrewing the bottom end. "It's all… It's too…" She seemed to struggle with a way to explain it, and the narrowing of her eyes and the tilting of her eyebrows gave her frustration away. "I can't stand how normal it all is!" she said, quite loudly, causing Gohan to step back.
If Gohan was confused before, he was twice as confused now. "I like that things are back to normal," he said meekly, his hand rubbing his jaw.
"Well, I don't," she told him firmly, screwing the tip back onto the pen and using it to emphasize certain points by tapping it against the desk. "I don't like that all of my friends died, yet they are, right now, sitting in their desks completely oblivious to everything that happened. I don't like that a few months ago, I thought you were dead, and I was dead, and then—then—"
Her voice, too shaky and unsure to continue, stopped, and Gohan, uncertain about what he should do, stammered an apology. "I-I'm sorry," he said, though he wasn't quite sure why he was apologizing, or what for. But he was sorry. Videl was upset and he didn't like that she was upset. His mother told him he had a fix-all attitude and he couldn't stand the thought of things existing that he simply couldn't fix himself. He supposed she was right. He was feeling awfully helpless.
She took a deep breath and audibly counted to ten. "Gohan," she said, sounding strained but calmer, "a few months ago, this planet was pretty much space dust. Everyone was dead. I remember thinking that Erasa and Sharpner and even the people I helped put into jail were dead. And then I was dead. I remember dying. I remember all of it. And they did, too…until today."
"I'm sorry," Gohan said again, quietly, and shrunk back a bit. He hadn't really thought of it like that before. He'd been glad that Videl and Mr. Satan had come with them to summon the Dragon, to be excluded from the memory wipe. Deep down, he realized that he was pleased that he wouldn't have to start over with everyone, not really. Sure, they knew he was Saiyaman, but that was okay. People had gotten bored of that knowledge only two weeks after returning to school. But remembering Majin Buu alone… That would have been hard. It had been nice to have someone he could admit the truth to, for once. That was something he didn't think he could stand to lose.
It was partially his fault that Videl had gotten involved in the whole mess to begin with, though; if he hadn't been so stupid and obvious with his disguise, maybe she wouldn't have figured him out so quickly, and then she wouldn't have asked for flying lessons, so he wouldn't have gone to the tournament, so she might not have ended up against Spopovitch, and then enough energy wouldn't have been collected…
He forced his brain to come to a screeching halt.
"We had to erase their memories though, or the good Buu would never be able to leave here."
"I know," she said. "But yesterday everyone remembered dying, remembering coming back, remembered Buu, remembered why I got my butt handed to me at the tournament, and today they don't. But I do."
"I thought you wanted to remember," he said, feeling hurt though he wasn't sure why.
Her eyes narrowed at him. "I don't like the thought of being oblivious to something that happened," she said. "but I don't like to remember dying. Or watching other people die. Or—" she paused, "—the mix of doubt and fear and horror when you realize someone you care about might be dead." She shrugged her shoulders and looked out the window before Gohan could say anything. "I just need a day," she said, "to get used to the idea of everyone being oblivious again."
Gohan wondered how many times people had used the dragonballs to make people forget something.
"I didn't forget," he found himself saying. "My dad told me to forget it, forget everything, but he was so mad, so angry, and he's always so carefree. I-I knew that you…uhm, and the others, were gone when he said that."
"I'm sorry," she said. Videl so rarely apologized that it got Gohan's attention immediately.
He gave her a lopsided smile.
"I just got eaten," she said off-handedly, as if it explained her apology. "I didn't have the fate of the world resting on my shoulders like the rest of you. I didn't stand a chance. When they said you were dead, I didn't believe them. I guess I thought—I just had a feeling that I would know if you were dead, and then I thought for a moment, that if you had died so quickly, you and Vegeta, then eventually we would all go the same way."
"But you were right," he said, feeling shy, though he inched forward to better see her face. "I-I mean, I almost died, they said it was close, but I wasn't dead, at least not then."
"It's been hard to get used to the fact that most of my life was a lie. No offense, Gohan, but the whole Saiyan thing was hard to believe, and if I hadn't seen it all for myself, I'd think it was just a really odd dream."
He blushed, embarrassed. "W-Well," he said, "now you know why I didn't want anyone to know…"
"They all do now," she said.
"Not the whole truth, though," he protested. "Only you…do." Something about that last part seemed…intimate, he thought. Maybe that wasn't something a person should say to a girl like Videl. Or was he imagining that it was an intimate statement? Unable to decide, his face flushed darker.
"Well," she said. "It's nothing to be embarrassed about. But I have to admit, if everyone knew, they'd probably want to experiment on you. It'd be…problematic."
"Yeah," he said. "I just want people to think I'm normal."
She raised an eyebrow, the beginnings of a smirk creeping across her face the longer she stared at him. "Normal?" she asked. "Nerd is about the closest you'll get to normal."
He laughed nervously. "Y-Yeah," he said, "but that's better than everyone knowing I'm half-alien."
"Definitely," she agreed, and then paused before edging off of her desk. "Gohan," she said, sounding uncharacteristically soft. "I didn't mean to imply that I was sorry I remembered your secrets. I'm glad I remember that. I'm just—it's hard to get used to the fact that the important stuff is only known to a handful of people, now."
Feeling a burst of courage, he reached out and touched her shoulder sympathetically. "I guess I've just been used to it, but you know, if…if you ever want to talk or anything…" Want. Want was a good word. Videl so rarely needed anything that suggesting she might need to talk might hurt her pride.
He stumbled through the simple sentence blushing and looking generally foolish, but Videl smiled at him gratefully.
"Thanks," she said. "I spent years wishing I could keep parts of my life private from other people, and now I have something I can keep private. It's just hard to keep something like that in all of the time. How did you do it all those years?"
"Living in the middle of nowhere helped," he admittedly, flushing at her comment. "I just wanted the chance to be around other people and be considered normal."
"And to think," she said, laughing for a moment as his hand fell to his side, "that most of us normal people spend our lives hoping and trying to be unique and different!"
"I know," he said, realizing that she was also referring to herself. "Grass is always greener on the other side?"
"Most people think so," she said.
And then silence fell between them. It wasn't awkward, or tense; it was simply silence, filled with the sound of the birds outside Videl's window, and the ticking of the clock over her fireplace.
"I'll be back in school tomorrow," she said. "I just needed time to think today. It's a lot to take in. It sort of makes a person feel…"
"Alone," Gohan finished for her, his voice serious and his eyes understanding as they met hers.
He supposed it was odd to be together but still feel alone, but that was how he felt for the first few weeks of school, surrounded by people, and making friends…sort-of…but not being able to truly confide in anyone.
They sat in silence for another moment, each of them just looking at the other, and all of a sudden, Videl stepped forward. "Come here," she said, and wrapped her arms around him tightly in a hug.
Gohan had been hugged before—by Bulma, by his parents, by his brother—but this was…different, somehow. He hesitated for only a moment before returning the embrace, and he didn't really feel like letting go anytime soon.
Eventually she pulled away, and he felt a moment of keen disappointment, but quickly tried to hide his flushed expression.
"Thanks for coming," she said. "It's nice having someone to talk to who understands."
"Y-Yeah," he agreed, and made an attempt to regain his composure. "It's nice."
"Speaking of nice," she said, looking strangely nervous as she grabbed onto his hand and stared at it. "I was thinking maybe…we could do something, just you and me. Sometime."
"Y-You mean, like a date?" he asked, his voice getting an octave higher from both shock and nervousness. He wasn't sure what to think of the idea. He definitely wasn't opposed, but it was all so sudden—and wasn't he supposed to be the one doing the asking? Though he supposed if she was asking him, that would save him the awkward embarrassment of having to ask her himself, which…really, he was grateful for.
"Yeah," she answered, blushing a little. It was obvious that asking someone out was not something she did regularly. Or ever.
"I was thinking a movie, something fun," she said. "What do you think?"
His face turned a darker shade of red as he answered in the affirmative, and then admitted, "I'm not very good at these things."
"Me either," she said. "We can be horrible together."
And maybe he imagined it, but there was something a little bit intimate about that last bit.
"Gohan," she said when he didn't say anything for a long moment. "Gohan? You're going to be late getting back to class, you know."
"Oh no!" he yelped, and looked at the clock. The class was already halfway over. He zipped out of the window but came back a moment later. It was rude not to say goodbye to someone before you left.
"You do realize," Videl said, leaning out her window to grin at him, "that everyone knows you're Saiyaman. You could have just faked an incident to leave."
"I can't lie," he said, sounding aghast at the mere idea.
"But didn't you say you had to go to the bathroom or something?"
"Yeah," he said, "but uhm…technically that's not a lie since I'll stop by on the way back."
She rolled her eyes. "Okay," she said. "See you in class tomorrow. And see you Saturday for our…date." She grinned wider, looking quite pleased with herself.
He merely flushed. "O-Okay," he answered, failing to hide a smile of his own. "Saturday, then!"