PART I - On Earth
Son Gohan - Scholar - Dreamer - Child
Do you believe that you are who are from the day you're born? Do you think that your life won't change you, at least not fundamentally? I've had a chance to study the difference a life makes.
Are you curious?
Vegeta, Saiyan prince and newly christened warrior of the Earth, circled and punched in the insanely multiplied gravity of his training chamber. It was all wrong. Saiyans didn't save worlds. They didn't settle down and raise half-breed children. There was a time when Vegeta would have blasted the Earth to bits himself, just for laughs. What had happened to him? What would his father say?
Vegeta screamed his frustration and redoubled his training efforts. Everything should have been different. If the Saiyan home world had survived, he'd still be the man he was meant to be. If wishes... The derogatory comment he'd been about to make about dreamers and wishes died on his lips. In this world, if you knew the way, wishes were real.
Gohan tapped his pencil idly against his algebra book on the kitchen table and watched his mom. She was bustling around the kitchen cleaning and humming. There hadn't been any crying since the first day after Dad had died. It was obvious she was hurting, but she refused to show it. Instead she kept everything the same, her rituals and now his. She monitored his studying like she'd always done before he'd been whisked off to train.
He'd expected a fight the first day he'd told her he was going out to run and train for a while first thing, before algebra or English. She hadn't told him he was wasting his energy, instead she'd just told him when breakfast would be ready. But she wasn't supposed to give in like that. Dad was supposed to make her laugh or kiss her, and then she'd give in.
Everything was different, and Gohan hated it. But it didn't matter how hard he wished his father were back, nothing, not even the eternal dragon would ever change things, not this time.
"Are you studying? It doesn't look like your studying. Where's your work? Show it to me," Chichi said. She took Gohan's notebook and opened her mouth to continue scolding him, but the doodle covering the page stopped her. It wasn't terribly good, but his subject was clear, spiky hair and a huge grin. It was her Goku. "Why don't you go out and get some fresh air. Then I want you to go over this chapter properly." Chichi just managed to maintain her composure until her oldest boy was out the door, then she sank down into a kitchen chair and bit her fist to keep from screaming. Tears streamed down her face and her whole body shook with sobs.
He was gone. Her Goku was never coming back. He'd never see his baby boy or make her a baby girl. It wasn't fair. She fought every day to keep her face and mind clear for Gohan's sake, but she just wanted to cry all the time. Her Goku had left her alone. She had to raise their boys. She had to support them and scold them and teach them how to be, how to live. Goku wasn't going to be there to tell her she was coddling them, to tell her to let them fly and not hold them back. And he wouldn't be there to protect them if anything else ever threatened their world.
"Sometimes I wish I never met you, Goku," Chichi whispered. "Sometimes it hurts too much." Her baby, Goten, chose that moment to scream from the bedroom. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and made her way to the crib. "Hush now," Chichi whispered. She lifted her baby onto her shoulder and checked his nappy.
A bottle of milk, some gentle rocking, cuddling and then Goten was back asleep in his bed. He was a perfect angel. Tiny wisps of black hair were already coming in and his eyes were still baby blue. Chichi looked heavenward. "If you're listening, I take it back. You were the best thing that ever happened to me. When I forget, our babies remind me. I just wish you were here."
Vegeta dialed down the extra gravity of his training chamber and headed out into the sun. He had originally come to the Earth for her Dragonballs. He hadn't even considered then what he was considering now. He could, with one wish, restore the Saiyan home world, as if nothing had happened. He could turn back the clock and return the universe to its natural order, one act to save his soul from the tranquility which every moment threatened to further taint his warrior's spirit. First though, he'd need the Dragonballs and for those, Dragonball radar. He headed for the Capsule Corps R & D building.
Bulma's lab was a cluttered place. Gadgets and gizmos were stuffed into every corner, hanging on the wall, stacked on shelves. One of those mechanized toys was a Dragonball radar, and Vegeta was supremely confident that an advanced alien life form like himself would be able to find it.
Two hours and 123 gizmos later, Vegeta was beginning to take his frustration out on the unresponsive devices. He threw a box resembling a toaster over at the chemical hood and smiled at the impressive crash it made.
"Hey, how am I supposed to cook mini-pizzas without that?" Bulma asked. She was standing in the door with a damningly innocent inquisitive look. "If you needed something you should have asked." Vegeta just stared at her. "You can still ask."
"There is no need." Vegeta spotted the device he had been searching for and scooped it off the ground.
Bulma watched Vegeta exit through the back with something he'd scooped out of a pile. Her lab was a wreck. Nothing was in the pile it was supposed to be in and her toaster oven was quite dead. It could take days to figure out exactly what Vegeta had taken, but she didn't much care at that moment.
The man was impossible. He hadn't even held his son or laid a finger on her since the conception of said son. She knew he cared. He showed it sometimes in the way he'd stand close or not-quite-smile. But the rest of the time, it was as if he hated them, as if he hated caring enough to almost smile at his son or her.
Bulma kicked at her toaster oven. Well, sometimes she hated him too: his temper, his attitude, the fact that he wouldn't touch his son. Sometimes she hated him almost as much as she loved him.
Two Weeks Later
Vegeta stood in the parched sand of the wilderness, bathed in the red twilight between day and night. Seven tiny Dragonballs lay in the sand at his feet, glowing faintly with unused potential, with magic.
Assembling the Dragonballs had been almost effortless for Vegeta. The Dragonball radar told him where to go and he went, occasionally pausing to hunt and eat or rest. Vegeta didn't allow himself to ponder all the consequences of the action he was flying toward. There were only the Dragonballs and his quest to save his mind and soul from the infection which plagued him, to save himself from the weak emotions that if he let them, would urge him to turn back, to go home to Bulma and Trunks and just be happy.
It wasn't until Vegeta stared into the smoldering red eyes of the eternal dragon, that those emotions finally made themselves heard over the roar of his brand of insanity. He was going to give up a life and a family, happiness, for his brutal past. Vegeta hesitated for only a moment. "I wish that the Saiyan home-world had never been destroyed."
The dragon coiled and bobbed its massive head. "Done."
Vegeta reveled in his victory and tried to ignore the now-tiny voice inside him shouting that he'd destroyed his son that Trunks would never be born. The voice keened that he had given up his life, a life that was making him happy and contented. Vegeta proved with his wish that his pride and perfidy could conquer the new emotions threatening to take over his soul. He didn't get the chance to regret his actions.
Well almost everything...
Goku dug his fingers down into the turf of the little patch of the afterlife he was currently reclining on. Training, eating, and relaxing, being dead was like living, minus his friends and family. It was a little lonely, being dead. Ever the optimist, Goku just tried to remember that eventually everyone ended up dead and he'd be able to visit with all his friends again someday. The clouds above cleared revealing the brightest view of stars, he'd ever seen. Being in heaven had its perks.
Not even the whisper of a sound betrayed what happened next. The stars vanished. One moment they were there, the next, the sky was black and empty. Goku blinked and cocked his head to the side. "What the heck would cause that?" If it weren't for the slight glow of his halo, he would have been in complete darkness. His eyes adjusted quickly, but he could barely see his hands in front of his face. A gradually intensifying scream was approaching from the right and Goku sprang toward it.
"THE END OF THE UNIVERSE! THE END!"
A glowing halo much lower to the ground than Goku's was rapidly moving in circles, and appeared to be shouting the news about the end of the universe. "King Kai?" Goku carefully interposed himself into the path of the halo and intercepted a very distraught, dead Kai.
King Kai grabbed him by his shirtfront and shook for all he was worth. "A... A... A... billion stars just vanished died... A BILLION."
"They died? What could kill a billion stars?"
King Kai went limp. "I don't know. How could this... How could it have happened?"