Disclaimer: I don't own Dragonball / Dragonball Z / Dragonball GT.
Four times had he done it, Gohan could remember it very clearly.
Four times had his father saved the world from danger. Raditz, Vegeta, Freeza, and then Cell. For one reason or another, he was always able to extricate himself from even the tightest of situations after fighting those guys and find his way back to the midst of those who loved him. As it was evident from the aftermath of the battle with his evil uncle, Raditz, not even death held power against him. He would simply return to life with the help of the Dragon Balls…
… but not this time around. He wouldn't be around to save the world for the fifth time.
"I know it's kind of unfair for you and your mom, Gohan," he said that time, "but you don't have to wish me back, okay?"
To say the least, he was utterly shocked by this statement. He just couldn't comprehend how in the world someone could reject the notion of being brought back to life! No, he just couldn't believe what he just heard! And the reason? All that nonsense about being a danger magnet, how he wouldn't get old in the Other World, being able to fight fighting masters from before their time? There was no way he was going to buy any of it!
"Besides, son, you are so strong now I have nothing left to teach you."
He found it extremely difficult and painful just to keep his tears at bay after having been confronted with the harsh truth. "But… that doesn't mean I don't need you…!" he shouted out in sadness.
"Sorry guys, I'm out of time," his father interjected. For a moment there he felt as though he had been ignored, and he could feel his heart skip a beat. "Live your lives to the fullest, and I'll see you again when you're done! Goodbye!"
And that was it. He hung up as abruptly as he had dialled in.
Everybody else then started reminiscing about him. He really couldn't relate to them at all since those memories were those of the times before he was even born. However, if there was this one most important thing he had learned from his father, it was that he had to always be brave even when things were looking really bad. For that, he thanked him.
So, after resurrecting Trunks and removing the explosives planted inside Eighteen's body, everyone went their separate ways. At this time he was still trying his best to look strong in front of Kuririn whom he was travelling with, but even his chains wouldn't last long. Before they yielded, though, he powered up and blasted off to the yonder.
And that was it. After making sure that he was far ahead of Kuririn, he broke down in tears.
As he zipped through the sky, he emptied his eyes out. He didn't care about anything else now. The others might think he was now the strongest single person on the planet or in the universe, but he didn't care. He was still a ten-year-old—eleven, when you factor in his time in the Room of Spirit and Time—who shouldn't be deprived of parental love.
The child in him still longed for the presence of his father. The father he knew was strong. The father he knew he could always count on. The father he knew he loved more than anything in this world. For having left him with his mother, he wanted to hate him, but no… he simply couldn't.
Because it wasn't his father's fault.
It was his own fault.
It was because of him that his father had to step in. It was because of him that he had to take Cell away from the earth to ensure its survival. And it was because of him that he had to die. No matter how he put it, everything traced back to him as the focal point of the whole disaster. He had taken the life of his own father. He was a murderer… a cold, sadistic, heartless murderer.
He screamed in anguish, hoping that the wind would take his sadness away. That it wasn't working at all, though, so he was forced to channel his emotions in a more extreme way; he made his landing on a desolate piece of land populated only by rock faces and mesas, and with a mighty cry of despair he transformed straight into his Super Saiyan 2 form and blasted everything that was unfortunate enough to be in his field of view into oblivion.
After exhausting himself, he started crying again, clearly overtaken by an immense feeling of guilt and regret. "Dad, I'm sorry… I'm really sorry!" he said between his sobs, "It was my fault… everything was my fault! I didn't listen to you… if only I had, you wouldn't… you wouldn't have…"
He would cry himself to the point of exhaustion at which he unknowingly reverted to his base form and passed out. When he woke up, the time of the day had changed; the sun was now only a few degrees above the horizon, giving rise to a red-yellow overall tone typical of eventide. He figured it was time to go home and break the news to his mother and grandfather, despite the fact that he wasn't quite ready for that. However, he knew this was something of grave importance, and he wouldn't get anywhere by keeping the fact to himself.
And yes, how devastated his family members were when they heard about the demise of one of them. His grandfather was more understanding, but it took him forever to calm his mother down. She subsequently went into a state of depression, and during this time, she would lock herself in her room, mourning and weeping in tears.
His mother only came to terms after about two weeks, and to say he was glad was an understatement. By this time he had considerably calmed down and accepted the truth that his father wasn't returning, and slowly but surely he managed to adapt into living without someone to look up to. Yes, he had resolved to be strong for his mother and himself, and do whatever it cost him in order to keep his family running smoothly.
That said, he would sometimes cry in his sleep. No matter how hard he tried to carry on, there was this huge hole in his heart. That was the hole left behind by his father when he passed away, and only by him could this void be filled, not by anyone or anything else. In his sleep he would dream about meeting his father again, and the first thing he would notice upon waking up was always a puddle of tears on his pillow.
Yes, to him, life hadn't been too kind lately. In fact, it was as though he had hit rock bottom. But something would eventually balance his less-than-spectacular times, and all those depressing moments would someday come to an end.
That one day was a day on which a new life was brought to this world.
He was extremely, extremely amazed when he first saw that little bundle of joy who looked safe and comfortable in a piece of soft cloth. That, he recalled, was the tiniest human being he had ever seen in his life! Even Trunks wasn't this small when he first saw him just before the artificial humans attacked. He just couldn't fathom how someone could be this… frail and helpless, yet adorable at the same time!
When his mother offered him to hold the baby, he hesitated. What if he was too strong to handle his little brother and hurt him in the process? What if he woke up and, seeing a new person, got scared silly and traumatised? What if, what if, what if? Chains of questions made him refuse the offer several times, but he finally gave up after being urged by his grandfather.
"Gohan, sweetie," she said tenderly in an attempt to reassure her elder son, although she was still exhausted from labour, "That's okay. Nothing bad is going to happen. I promise. Now why don't you try and hold your brother? If he wakes up, I'm sure he'll be very happy."
With that, he received the little life from his mother's hand, and oh, what an experience it was.
As soon as he held him in his arms, this truly, uniquely satisfying feeling washed all over him. He was lighter than he had expected him to be, and he looked very delicate! He also felt very, very pure, and even though he was just a baby, his energy signature was warm, radiant, and strong.
Right then, he felt this urge to protect his little brother come what may; this little life was worth more than anything, he just knew it. He would even give his life for him! It was now that his father's intent dawned on him; you would do anything to keep your loved ones away from harm, even if it meant sacrificing yourself. Now that he finally understood it, he could feel a huge portion of his guilt being cancelled away.
It was him who got to name the baby. After thinking for some time, he settled with a name: Goten. Son Goten. The name was chosen not only because he was such a gift from heaven, but also as a tribute to his father who had always strived to be better than his own self. As heaven was above even the highest of skies, it was only natural that the name Goten came to mind.
When he was studying Goten's countenance, his eyes suddenly opened. That was his first time looking at the depths of his little brother's soul; at that very moment he became transfixed by the innocent gaze those little pair of onyx eyes cast. Goten gasped, perhaps surprised for seeing someone new, but amazingly he didn't seem to grow alarmed. In fact, he snuggled and made himself comfortable in his older brother's arms, then stared at him for several seconds straight.
Unable to contain his happiness any longer, he cracked a smile and poked his baby brother's cheeks with his finger. "Hello there, Goten!" he said, "My name's Gohan, and I'm your big brother. Nice to meet you!"
To his surprise, Goten seized his finger and squeezed it. It wasn't that it hurt, but he was taken aback by how strong the grasp was, considering it came from someone the baby's size. Then, as though trying to form words to reply to his words, Goten let out a few unintelligible funny-sounding sounds that his brother interpreted as simple "ah-ah-ah" and "ya-ya-ya".
"Hee-hee. You wanna say something, huh? When you finally get home, I'll teach you how to speak, okay? But until then, I'll visit you here every day!"
He continued to interact with Goten, and the sight was sure to melt even the hardest of hearts. When Goten started to cry, somehow he knew it was because he was tired, so he rocked him gently in his arms while singing a lullaby to comfort him. Although he knew his tone was off—he was never a good singer to begin with—the baby fell asleep yet again in no time, this time looking more comfortable than before.
"Goten, I'm so happy to meet you, you know that?" he said with a smile. A single drop of tear of joy managed to find its way out of his eyes. "I promise to you and to anyone else, I'll be a good big brother. You don't have to worry about anything, because… because I'll be there for you. Always. See if I don't…"
He then carefully handed Goten back to his mother. His unfounded fears that he might break or snap him into two didn't come true, and how he was very glad for that. It was time for him to head back home since someone had to keep everything tidy in his mother's absence, so he gave her and Goten a goodbye kiss.
"I love you, Goten. I do, and I always will…"
Four years had it been, Goten was told by his daddy.
Four years had it been since he was brought into this world. However, he could remember absolutely nothing from his earlier years of life, and he didn't know why. The only way he could peer through time was through the photo album that told of his past, but even then he had no memories of those moments depicted in the pictures.
However, if there was one thing that he could easily associate with those 'lost years' of his life, it was Gohan. This daddy of his had always been there for him without fail, in joy and sorrow, in sickness and health. For an unknown reason he knew that along with mommy, daddy was among the very first people he had met; he just knew it, although it was true that he didn't remember anything.
He loved him so much. Whenever daddy was around, he felt safe. He believed that no demons, monsters, or whatever creatures lurking in the dark would dare coming any closer, because daddy would just kick their butt and send them crying. Also, it was him whom he always went to for comfort; whenever he felt sad, all he needed to do was come to him and he would make him feel better in no time.
However, what he absolutely liked from him was his stories. Every night before going to bed, daddy would always tell amazing stories. They always revolved around one character simply known as the Hero, but every day he fought different foes from one of the following: his evil brother, the comrades of his evil brother, a lizard from outer space, and a giant bug robot.
Although he liked the stories, there was one in particular that he loved so much, and that was the story about how the Hero vanquished the giant bug robot. It had a bittersweet ending since the Hero had to sacrifice himself, but his son ensured that the world would continue to be at peace. Whenever they came to the end of that story, he never failed to shed a tear, sad and amazed at the same time at the noble sacrifice performed by the Hero, his all-time favourite character from daddy's stories.
He noticed, however, that this story was the one daddy was least enthusiastic about. For some reason, his delivery for this story wasn't as passionate as that for the other ones. Why that was so, he didn't know. Also, often times, he caught him spacing out in the middle of the story, which prompted him to call out to him so that the story could continue.
Other times, when he was supposed to be asleep, he saw daddy sitting on his desk, holding a picture frame in his hand. It gave him the creeps sometimes since he could hear him whisper to the picture, so usually he just went back to sleep and tried not to think about it. He wanted to know what it was all about, but by the next morning, he had already forgotten. It was always like that… and up until now he still didn't know why his daddy would talk to himself.
And that wasn't all. There were many more things in life that he still failed to understand, especially the topic brought about by all the other adults whenever they were gathered together.
During those times, he kept hearing the name Goku. Some of those grownups would even refer to him as mini Goku. He didn't understand… just who was Goku? His name was Goten! He didn't want to be called by any other name, because he knew his daddy had come up with that name for him. Therefore, it had to be a very meaningful name; there was no way he would give up that name!
"Look at him. Those eyes, his hair…" Trunks' mommy once said about him, "How does he not remind you of Goku when he was just a kid?"
"Tell me about it. I can clearly see Goku in him," a guy without hair—he always thought it was very funny how someone's head could be that shiny—replied to her.
"Let's see if he'll be just like him when he grows up," another guy with a scar on his cheek continued, "My credit card says he will. Just you watch."
Goku, Goku, Goku. That word was common in everyone's sentences. But what did it mean? Why was everyone always comparing him to this Goku guy? He simply didn't get why everyone was so obsessed with him. When he asked Trunks about it, he would just shrug and shake his head in confusion; he was just as clueless as him.
He wasn't alone, though. During one of his routine sleepover sessions, Trunks admitted that he knew what it felt like, being compared to someone he didn't know and hadn't even met: it wasn't pleasant. Not in the slightest bit. He learned that every time Trunks' mommy got upset or angry because of Trunks, she would sometimes mumble about how he should be more like that other Trunks. But who was this other Trunks? He didn't know, and neither did Trunks. Only heaven knew.
"I mean, duh. How can I be like a person I don't even know? That's not even fair," Trunks finally complained, unable to contain his frustration any longer.
His best friend's words actually made him stop for a while and think about it. It was true that nobody expected him to be like this Goku guy, unlike how Trunks was expected to be like the other Trunks, but still… deep down inside, he knew it was true. Somehow he knew that was how the other adults think of him.
Yes. Goku this, Goku that, Goku everything… why did everybody else always talk about Goku whenever they saw him? Why wouldn't they acknowledge him as Goten? The only ones who never did mention about Goku in front of him were daddy, mommy, and Trunks. They always referred to him as Goten, not mini Goku. That was why he loved them; they always saw him as who he really was.
Someday, he would find out about Goku. He wanted—no, scratch that; he really needed—to know who this person really was. He would force someone to tell him everything about the man who seemed to be in everyone's minds every time they saw him.
And was there any better time to do it than one of daddy's late-night monologue session? According to him, no.
This was the best time, he thought, since nobody else would be able to hear them talking to each other, so he could spill everything out, starting from his curiosity to his frustration. With that in mind, he approached daddy and called out for him, surprising him.
His daddy must have not expected him to still be awake at such a late hour, but entertained him nonetheless. He could see, though, daddy returning the photo frame to its place—the drawer—before he climbed up to his lap.
"What's the matter, Goten?" he asked him, "I thought you were already asleep."
"I can't sleep," he replied.
Daddy just nodded. It was true that tonight was particularly hot, which might have resulted in his difficulty sleeping. Then, he rocked him and sang him a lullaby; although he wasn't the best singer in the world—in fact, he might be one of the worst—he loved it when he did that. There was this unknown quality in daddy's voice that really worked wonders in calming him down no matter what he was currently feeling inside.
After the song was finished, a period of silence followed. He figured this would be the best time to initiate the conversation, so without thinking any further, he spoke up.
"Daddy, can I ask you something?" he asked with an innocent tone.
"Why, sure, Goten. Why not?" replied daddy, "Go ahead, ask away."
"Okay… so who's this Goku guy?"
Soon after saying those words, he regretted his decision and wished he could have withdrawn the question. He could see his daddy became alarmed by the question because his expression suddenly dropped. He apologised for that, but daddy quickly regained composure and said it was alright.
"I knew. I always did…" he said, "I knew that someday you'd ask this question, but I…"
"What is it, daddy?"
"I just… I didn't think it'd be this quick. Why'd you ask, hmm?"
It was then that he revealed everything. There was so much that he had to say, and almost all of it was regarding his hurt and frustration over being constantly compared to this person. He didn't like it! He also quoted Trunks, saying that being compared to Goku just wasn't fair for him; how was he supposed to learn from someone he didn't even know? There was more that he wanted to know, but right now, he would stop here.
Of course, this surprised daddy to no end. The others had been speaking about Goku a lot, very much to the point that it had actually affected someone. No child should ever be burdened by what others thought of him, especially when it involved comparing him to someone whom he had no memory of in any way. That was right… it wasn't fair at all.
"Goten, I… I'm not sure if I'm ready. Are you?" daddy asked him again.
"Huh, whaddya mean you're not ready?" he asked back, "But that's okay, daddy. I'll wait until you're ready."
And that was just what he did. He waited until daddy finished preparing himself to answer his question. He wasn't quite sure what held him back; perhaps this question carried more weight than he had previously thought? He felt bad for making daddy feel bad, but he wanted to know now. This Goku guy had been haunting him incessantly, day and night, and now that he was this close from getting the answer, he wasn't about to let it slip away.
Finally, it was time. Since he was leaning on daddy's chest, he could feel his heart beating faster and faster each second. There was no backing away, this was the moment of truth.
"Do you know my name?"
He arched his eyebrows in confusion. Why ask the obvious? "Gee, of course, daddy. Your name is Gohan! That's the coolest name ever!"
"Then…" daddy paused for a while before continuing, "From now on, just… call me that, okay?"
"Huh? But why? That's not polite."
Indeed, he knew it wasn't polite to address his parents, or other adults for that matter, solely by their name. So what gave? Why did daddy want him to do it? Now his question just led to another question, and he began feeling rather upset about it. He asked because he wanted answers, not more questions!
But soon, he would get his answers, albeit not in a way that he had expected…
He would be made aware of the truth… the hard way.
"Because I'm… I'm not your daddy."
What was that just now?
"I'm your brother, Goten…"
What did he just hear?
He could feel his heart skip a beat or two. Did he just hear him say that he wasn't… daddy? He asked him again, and apparently yes, he didn't hear it wrong. This person named Gohan wasn't his daddy, not who he had always thought he was.
Now that the truth had been conferred upon him, he could see. Only now did he notice that Gohan was actually very young, much younger than Trunks' scary daddy. But no… he had never noticed it before. All these years, he had been living knowing his own brother as his daddy; the truth was harsh, and having completely forgotten about his question about Goku earlier on, he began to cry.
"Why? Why did you lie to me? Why…?" he sobbed, "Then who's my daddy? Tell me… do I have a daddy?"
His brother could only apologise while trying to comfort him. He was now overcome with mixed feelings; he wanted to hate the person he thought was his daddy for keeping this a secret, but he simply couldn't. In fact, he hated himself for having brought this sadness upon them. He continued crying, crying, and crying until he had no more tears to shed.
In his distress, he could hear Gohan sniffle and sob several times. He too was crying. He had never seen him cry before, so it just made things even worse for him. Gohan continued to run his fingers through his messy spikes of hair in an attempt to placate him, all while apologising in a very plaintive tone of voice.
It didn't change… the feeling didn't change, and it never would. Gohan's actions never failed to comfort him. Although now he knew Gohan wasn't his daddy, he simply had grown to like him too much to hate him. No, whatever happened, he could never hate him… not in his life. He would still love the person who would always be there for him. The person who never failed to make him happy. The person who was his big brother.
Yes, so great was his faith in him. It was because of it that he believed the truth about his daddy had been kept a secret for a good reason. He would question Gohan no more, and before he knew it, he had forgiven him for everything. It was surprising, really, even to himself, but perhaps it shouldn't have been considering the bond that existed between them.
Slowly, he began to yield to the charms of sleep, what with his hair being ruffled affectionately by Gohan. The next thing he noticed, he was already on the bed, safe in the protection of his arms. Although his eyes stung so bad and his shirt had been soaked silly, he felt comfortable, so he decided to sleep for a little bit longer.
When he turned to face Gohan, he noticed that he too was in the same situation. His face was damp, and on his pillow was a puddle of tears. Poor him, he thought… he must have been crying in his sleep. He didn't mean to do that; seeing Gohan in that state pained him so much, too, because all this time he always thought that he was a strong person.
"I'm sorry I made you cry… I won't do that again," he said, "And I won't be sad anymore. I promise…"
Again, he was dragged into the realm of sleep. Before he lost touch with reality, though, he managed to form a few more words and said it to Gohan—he wasn't sure if he could hear it, but that didn't really matter—as he fastened his grip around his arm.
"I don't care if you're my daddy or brother, because… you're everything to me, Gohan."
Just like how it had always been, when Goten woke up for the second time, the first thing he saw was Gohan's face. Although his eyes were swollen and red, he still managed to greet him with a smile. Now, usually the little kid would reciprocate by smiling back, but not this time, especially after what had taken place last night.
Today, he did it by hugging him.
Although Gohan was surprised by the change of routine, he returned the hug and even kissed his little brother's forehead. They then proceeded to begin their day by brushing their teeth, taking a bath, and having breakfast before returning to their room. Although they hadn't spoken a single word since waking up, the tension between them had vanished into thin air.
It was then that Gohan finally decided to answer Goten's inquiry about Goku the night before. He readied himself by taking a deep breath and exhaling it; he was now good to go, so he called Goten to the desk where he was sitting.
"Yesterday… you wanted to know who Goku is, right?" he asked, to which the kid replied by nodding weakly, "Today I'll tell you everything. But before that, can I ask you something?"
"Mm-hmm… you can," came Goten's reply.
"Do you know why some people go to heaven?"
"Because they've done good things when they were still living?"
Gohan patted Goten on the head, letting him know that his answer was correct. He then opened his drawer and took a rectangular photo frame. It was a family snapshot taken during one of Gohan's birthdays in the past, and it showed him, his mother, and also his father standing in that sequence from left to right.
Gohan then showed the picture to Goten and pointed at the grownup on the right side of the picture—he looked as though he had one severe case of bedhead. "This one here…" he said, "He's your daddy. Our daddy. His name is Goku."
Goten almost couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the picture. Just to make sure, he ran toward the mirror in the room in order to compare his face with Goku's. The resemblances between them were just uncanny! The eyes, nose, ears, and especially hairstyle… now Goten knew why everyone thought of him as a mini Goku, and although he still didn't like it, he had to admit it wasn't such a far-fetched thought after all.
"So, Gohan, Goku is… daddy. This one," said Goten, pointing at Goku in the picture. Gohan nodded in affirmative response. "Where is he now? Why haven't I seen him before?"
"That's because," replied Gohan, "daddy's been living in heaven since before you were born."
Again, the answer came as a total surprise to Goten. He hadn't thought that his father had died a long time ago. However, he didn't feel sad since he had no memories whatsoever of Goku; plus, he had grown up believing Gohan was his father. Goten was curious about him, though, so he asked his brother about his memories of him.
And so, Gohan recited everything that reminded him of his father. He began by stating that he was a very strong man who was willing to risk his own life for his loved ones. Then, he told one long, elaborate story about the battles that had been won by his father: against his evil brother. Against the comrades of his evil brother. Against a lizard from outer space. And finally, against a giant bug robot.
Gears began spinning in Goten's head and he soon put two and two together. He finally realised that Gohan's bedtime stories were actually real events that had taken place in the past! So the Hero, the character he liked for his bouts and noble sacrifice, was actually Goku. So his father died to protect the world. These facts did wonders in changing Goten's thoughts of Goku; in an instant, he admired him, both as a father and the hero of the world.
Then it dawned upon him. If those stories were real, then wouldn't it be true that Gohan was the one who defeated the bug robot when he made his comeback? He then asked his brother about this, intent on digging out the truth about the superhero hidden in him.
Yes, Goten was correct. Gohan confirmed it himself. In a rather sheepish manner, he replied, "Umm, yeah… but don't tell anyone about it, okay? I, uh… I don't wanna get famous…"
"Huh? Why don't you wanna get famous? I think it's cool," Goten tilted his head to the left in confusion. He respected his brother's wishes, though. "But okay! If you say don't do it, then I won't do it. I promise!"
With a word of gratitude, Gohan playfully poked Goten's forehead, eliciting a giggle from the little tyke. Then, out of the blue, he suddenly remembered what he wanted to say before; with all that storytelling, he had no chance of saying it, but right now it was the perfect opportunity to do so.
"Oh, and one more thing… you said you don't like how everyone else is reminded of daddy whenever they look at you."
"Yeah… I'm Goten, not anyone else. Not you, not daddy."
"Hee-hee, I know. But lemme tell you something," said Gohan again, "I told you daddy lives in heaven now, right?"
Goten responded with a nod and asked what it was supposed to mean. Before he got the answer, though, Gohan had secured his grasp on his side and lifted him into the air, swinging him around as though he had been an airplane. Goten enjoyed this game, so much that he momentarily forgot about his question and became lost in gleeful laughter.
When Gohan decided it was time to stop, he held Goten at arm's length in front of him, cast a gentle gaze deep into his eyes, smiled, and hugged him tenderly. He already had the answer to Goten's question, and he was more than willing to share it with him, the little brother he loved more than anything in the world.
The answer was, "That means he lives in you. Because, Goten… you're my heaven."
Post-note: I wrote this one-shot as a birthday present for one of my friends. He is of course among us fanfiction readers; he has even written stories! If you're that guy, happy birthday to you! Have a blast on this wonderful day!
悟空 (Goku): 悟り＋空 (satori + sora), understanding of the sky
悟天 (Goten): 悟り＋天 (satori + ama), understanding of heaven