Disclaimer: I don't own DB/Z/GT. However, I DO own ... *pause* ... Nope, I got nuthin' ...

A/N: This darn chapter has been extremely difficult. I wrote it four months ago (I think that's right . . .) but the computer didn't let me open it, since my aunt's computer apparently isn't compatible with mine OR my best friend's OR the school's. So. Hopefully, things will work this time.

I'm very sorry about the delay, btw . . . No excuses.

Gradual Love

Chapter Seven: Healing

The first thought that crossed ChiChi's muzzy brain was how comfortable she felt. They must have moved me to a room with a real bed in it . . . she mused, feeling the sheets and soft pillow without opening her eyes. The previous hospital bed definitely left something to be desired in the way of coziness.

The next fact that caught her notice was that somewhere, a window was open, for she felt warm sunlight on her face and heard the gentle melody of songbirds. A fresh breeze blew through as well, smelling faintly of pine trees and the mountains.

Next: someone was snoring, and it sounded like it was coming from the same bed!

What kind of hospital room is this? ChiChi's eyes flew open and she snapped her head around to see why in heaven's name someone would be sharing her bed. It was a mixture of relief and confusion that filled her when she realized she was at home.

The methods of when, how, and why she was returned home did not particularly interest her, for ChiChi was glad to leave the confines of the hospital. She had never had reason to stay in one before, and decided at that moment never to return to one again if at all possible.

Goku lay next to her, sound asleep and snoring loudly, but ChiChi noticed he was curled up on the far side of the bed, giving her as much space as possible. Despite the anger she had felt toward him, ChiChi was hit by a wash of tenderness. He really did care, didn't he . . . even after everything she'd said to him, her Goku-san was still sensitive to her needs.

She had been harsh on him in the hospital, she remembered vaguely. ChiChi wasn't sure just what was said, as she had been heavily dosed with sedatives and painkillers, but she knew she hadn't been kind. Goku didn't deserve that, of course. He never meant --

Go away . . .

Her voice, sharp, angry, bitter, rang in her head, and ChiChi stifled a gasp. She'd never used that tone of voice with her husband before! He was like a child in his innocence, and as such she normally treated him with the gentleness accustomed to dealing with one . . .

Shut up . . .

Don't touch me . . .

ChiChi covered her ears against the voices, as though that would help. Why had she said those things? It hadn't been Goku's fault . . . she had been the one to insist on the sparring match -- he had tried to stop her . . .

I don't want to talk to you . . .

Aren't you leaving?

It was too much to take, and ChiChi felt tears begin their journey down her smooth cheeks. How could she be so cruel to the man she loved -- the man who was trying his hardest to love her back, despite no previous experience with the emotion . . .

It's not your fault, a reasonable part of her mind reassured her. You were drugged, in pain . . . you can't expect to be rational when you're hurting that badly.

ChiChi shivered, taking comfort in the knowledge, but she felt it did not excuse her behaviour -- did not allow her to have acted so harshly. Poor Goku . . . he tried so hard, and she had shot him down without a thought except for her own pain!

Well. She could make that right easily enough. Goku was the most good-natured person she had ever met . . . he would accept her apology willingly, even gratefully.

She leaned over to embrace him from behind, but as soon as she touched him, ChiChi was wracked by a sudden sense of discomfort and pain -- yes, even revulsion! Pulling back in surprise, she tried again, but once more, could not bring herself to hug him. Doing so brought forth the memory of every emotional upheaval, every ounce of pain, felt during and directly after the miscarriage.

ChiChi could not allow that to happen again -- she just couldn't. Her body, it seemed, was taking that precaution to the extreme.

The slow trickle of tears soon changed to a rushing river, and ChiChi curled up into a ball as she cried, wringing the sheet between her hands until it became a sodden mess. She tried to cry quietly, burying her face in the pillow and trying desperately to stifle the harsh sobs, but it didn't work.

"ChiChi?" a warm hand rested on her shoulder, accompanied by the voice saturated with concern. "ChiChi, what's the matter? Are you hurting again?"

Still weeping, ChiChi sank back gratefully into her husband's open arms -- only to jerk back violently as her stomach turned over. Goku's touch -- it felt wrong somehow, and she couldn't stop it. "Don't touch me, Goku-san," she whispered raggedly. "I - I guess I'm not ready yet. I'm sorry."

Goku pulled back, and ChiChi rolled over to face him. She expected to see his expression riddled with hurt and incredulity, but it wasn't. His face was resolute, and he nodded. "I read about that," he told her, giving her a look of comfort and sympathy. "There was a book on miscarriage at the hospital, and I looked through it. It said that you probably wouldn't want to touch me or hug me or kiss me or anything for a long time."

ChiChi sniffled, but stared at her husband in amazement. Instead of pestering her with questions on what he had done wrong, and how could he fix it, and had he hurt her, Goku not only accepted the situation, but also seemed to have foreseen it! Could it be . . . she thought with amazement . . . could it be that her beloved, childlike husband had begun to grow up?

"It's okay, ChiChi," Goku assured her, misinterpreting her look as one of confusion. "I don't mind. I won't touch you until you're okay again. I'll even sleep on the couch so I don't do anything by accident."

"Goku-san . . ." ChiChi breathed, and all the anger she had felt toward him in the past few days melted away to pure love. More than anything she wanted to fling her arms about him and kiss him senseless -- but even the mere thought of it made her flinch. That would have to wait.

"I love you so much," ChiChi smiled through her drying tears, and was gratified to see Goku's face light up with happiness and relief. He even -- good heavens! -- wiped at his eyes . . . as though he'd been crying! At that moment, those three little words, which had meant the world to ChiChi, suddenly felt dry and inadequate. They didn't come anywhere near the depth of feeling that swelled up inside her, threatening to burst out any moment.

Goku grinned and reached out a hand as if to touch her, but pulled back just in time. "I know. And -- and every day I get better at figuring out what that means . . ." he frowned. "I was worried about you like crazy when that guy said he was gonna' take you away from me. I even --" he stopped, flustered, then shook his head. He seemed embarrassed.

"You even what, Goku-san?"

He lowered his voice to a whisper, and his face turned red. "I even cried. Ask Kuririn or Yamucha . . . I cried my eyeballs out! I've never, ever, ever cried that hard . . . not ever! My lungs hurt and my sides hurt and my chest hurt and my stomach hurt . . . I thought . . . I thought I was gonna' . . . I don't know . . . explode or crumple up or something when I thought you were gone. I even thought," here his face twisted up in anguish, and again he almost touched her. "I thought you didn't want me anymore. I thought you were gonna' say yes to that social worker guy."

The earnestness of his declaration touched ChiChi to the core, and she smiled at him. "I almost pitched the 'social worker guy' through a wall, Goku-san."

Goku giggled, something she'd never heard him do before. "Really? You were gonna' beat him up?"

"Oh yeah," ChiChi chuckled. "The poor man, he really was trying to help."

"He picked the wrong one, though," Goku shook his head in amazement. "When you need help from anybody, I think the planet will explode from surprise."

"You buffoon," ChiChi laughed, and the uneasiness with which she'd started the conversation faded away. She really was lucky . . .

They couldn't touch each other, couldn't kiss or hug, but they could talk. They could still understand each other. ChiChi realized, possibly for the first time, that physical contact did not make a relationship. Just because she wasn't comfortable with touching Goku didn't dim her feelings for him any. The relief from that was overpowering.

"I wanna' hug you," Goku told her simply, "But I'll wait. I think I'll write it down every time I want to hug you. And then," his grin widened, "When you feel okay with it again, I'll get to hug you for every time I wanted to!"

"I'd like that," she smiled. "I think I'll do the same."


A/N: Did I just write WAFF? Good heavens . . . *hides under a pillow* . . . my poor reputation!