AN: We're almost done here. Please don't kill the author if this story doesn't end exactly the way you want it to, okay? I write my stories the way I want them to go. I can't please everyone.

I don't own DBZ! It's not mine! I do own the computer this is typed on, though. No wait—my parents own that. Aw, poop on a stick!

Chapter Fifteen—The Last Dragonballs

"Well? Are we almost there?" Vegeta growled.

"Almost," Krillen sighed. This was, what, the fifth time he'd been asked in the past five minutes? Or was it the sixth? He gave up counting. "Geez, you guys. Patience is a virtue."

"That we don't have," Piccolo replied sharply. "Just get us there already."

"I can't make us fly anymore!" the short man protested. "Calm down. We'll be there in a minute. Just keep cool, and try to be patient."

The three Dragonball hunters had left not too long ago. Bulma had left the room, presumably for some conference with Vegeta. She'd come back in moments later, and immediately set about giving directions. She'd called Yamcha up and sent him on a mission to go get ChiChi and bring her to Capsule Corporation. Then she'd summoned her own parents to sit in the room with Videl and make sure the teenager was comfortable; they were also given instructions to get Bulma immediately if the girl should wake. That done, she had issued the order to the three remaining Dragonball hunters, in no uncertain terms, to get their asses out there and find the last three gems so they could make the wish and get the whole ordeal over with.

Vegeta had taken a few seconds to marvel at his mate's efficiency. This was one of those times when Bulma simply let the executive in her come to the front, and it was an incredibly fortunate thing that her inner exec was an extremely efficient manager. But, in accordance with her orders, he'd left with the other two to continue the Dragonball search.

When he had walked out the door, Bulma had been pacing back and forth with a cordless phone in her hand, muttering to herself. He picked up, via their bond, that she was in heavy debate as to whether or not she should call Hercule Satan and alert him to the condition of his daughter. She was his daughter, and thus he did have a right to know what the situation was. But chances were that he would storm in, make a scene, and refuse to listen to the "fairy tales" and "trickery" concerning the Dragonballs. They would never convince him as to the legitimacy of the story.

But now Bulma was far away, and Vegeta wondered if she'd made that phone call or not. He had mentioned her dilemma to his fellow hunters, and they had both felt that alerting Hercule should be put off for as long as was humanly possible.

"Down there!" Krillen called, pointing with the hand that wasn't holding the radar. Immediately, they dropped altitude and swooped down towards the ground; they landed easily, and peered around.

It was a forest this time, a heavy wooded area. So thick were the trees that a person couldn't see beyond a few feet in any direction before the view was blocked by tree trunks.

"It's in this forest somewhere. Give me a second, and I'll get a better reading," Krillen said, tapping the button on top of the radar. A frown crossed his face, making lines appear in his forehead, as he studied the screen. Then a smile broke on his face, and he pointed to his left. "That way."

And so they went, following Krillen's directions as he gave them. His attention was focused entirely on the radar, so it was mostly up to Vegeta and Piccolo to actually find the ball itself.

"Ugh," the Namekian groaned, shoving branches out of the way. "Why can't they ever be in an easy place, like those ones in the desert?"

"Be grateful, Piccolo," Krillen admonished, not taking his eyes off of the radar screen. "This is without a doubt the easiest Dragonball search I've ever been on. Only one that's actually been a struggle to find. That's pretty good for this kind of thing. So quit complaining!"

Piccolo snorted, but said nothing else.

Vegeta, though, got sick of having branches snapping in his face, and decided to do something about it. He raised a hand and with no further ado, he fired a few well-placed ki blasts into the trees, clearing himself a very nice path.

Krillen opened his mouth to protest, but he was silenced as Piccolo followed Vegeta's example and also cleared a path for himself through the trees. The short man groaned and clapped one hand over his eyes, as if to shield himself from the sight. "Guys! What are you doing?" he basically whined. But his protests fell on deaf ears–quite a remarkable feat, Saiyan and Namekian hearing being what it was.

"Well? Where is it?" Vegeta demanded.

Still grumbling, Krillen looked at the radar. "Right down your little road."

Vegeta smirked, and he and Piccolo headed in the direction.

Krillen glared after them. "Yes, go find the Dragonball, you despoilers of gardens..." he muttered, quoting something he had once read somewhere.

By the time they found the ball, buried beneath a pile of trees that Vegeta and Piccolo had knocked over, Krillen was in a very, very bad mood.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"You didn't have to blow up half the forest!" Krillen was still protesting half an hour later as they zipped towards the sixth Dragonball. The last three were in relatively close proximity to each other, so it wouldn't be long at all.

"Would you shut up already?" Vegeta finally snapped at him. "Gods, what are you? My mother? Sorry, but she died quite some time ago, and I have no need of a replacement."

Piccolo rolled his eyes. "Would you check that damn radar again and tell us where we stand?"

"Maybe another ten minutes ahead, and then we'll need to head down," he called back.

"Okay, Vegeta, since we've got a little time, why don't you tell us whatever it is that you told Bulma," Piccolo said with deceptive calmness. "I assume it has something to do with whatever's got Videl."

"It does," the Saiyan replied, looking straight ahead. Krillen moved in a little closer so his simple human hearing could pick up the conversation.

Piccolo studied Vegeta's expressin for a minute. "She's dying, isn't she?"

Krillen gasped, but the Saiyan nodded. "Yes, she is. I'm going to say to you what I said to the woman. If Gohan doesn't get his sorry halfbreed ass back to this world soon...we will have to dig two graves instead of one. The bond is broken, and she's unconsciously death-willing herself."

"Is that actually possible?" Krillen asked.

"You bet your ass it is. She wore herself out, going after the Dragonballs with us, and that just made everything worse. Now we're going against time."

The conversation pretty much ended there, and each of them mulled over it until Krillen called that they needed to head back down to the ground and search there.

Much to Krillen's delight, the sixth Dragonball, this one marked with a single star, was lying right out in the open, amidst a pile of stones standing along the edge of a river. The orange stood out like a sore thumb among the brown and gray of the regular rocks.

Spirits were high as the three hunters took off into the air once more, following the radar, hot on the trail of the seventh and final Dragonball.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Mrs. Briefs patted at the teenager's forehead with a damp cloth, then turned to her daughter. "I can't believe you wouldn't call this poor girl's father, sweetie."

"We'll call him once we get the Dragonballs," Bulma rubbed at her temples. It felt like the beginning of a migraine. The phone lay on a nearby table, momentarily forgotten. "If we tell him that Videl's dying, he'll come bursting in here, making a scene when there isn't anything to worry about at the moment. And then there's the possibility of lawsuits and the like...it's just too big of a hassle at the moment. I've got too much on my mind as it is without worrying about Hercule Satan trying to destroy me."

"If you say so," the blonde woman shrugged, still pressing the cool rag against Videl's forehead.

The door burst open then, making both women jump. ChiChi flew into the room, with Yamcha hot on her heels. She looked panicked.

"Is everything all right?" ChiChi asked desperately. Her eyes fell on Videl, and widened.

"For the moment, yes," Bulma said, trying to sound soothing. "But we're not sure for how long it'll be all right. The guys should be back soon, I hope, with the last three Dragonballs. We'll make the wish, and get Gohan back in your arms. When he's revived, it should pull Videl out of this."

"Oh, I hope you're right," ChiChi said, biting her lip nervously. By the bed, Mrs. Briefs was humming lightly. She didn't really seem to realize exactly how serious this was.

Trunks poked his head in through the door. "Mom, Goten's crying again. He says now he's gonna lose both his brother and his sister."

"Poor Goten," Bulma sighed. "This has been harder on him than anyone else."

"I'll take care of him," ChiChi said with a surprising resolve. "After all, I'm his mother."

On the bed, Videl's breathing was already starting to grow shallow, and her face was still pain-twisted and fearful.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Got it!" Krillen shouted triumphantly. "Pull me up!"

He felt a tug on his legs, and a few seconds later, he was back above ground with the precious seventh Dragonball in his hands. He counted the stars.

Four. The four-star ball. There was only word to describe that.

Ironic.

This one had been a little tricky to get. It had been washed down into an underground cavern, and ended up wedged into some rocks. Getting it out had taken some effort, but in the end, the hunters were victorious. They had all seven Dragonballs.

"We'd better head back," Vegeta said shortly. He surrounded himself with a white aura of energy and took of into the sky, following the familiar ki signals towards West City.

Piccolo took the Dragonball out of Krillen's hand and studied it for a minute. Then he smiled, ever so slightly. "Let's get going. We have a wish to make, and not much time in which to make it.

The three flew back, each feeling an extraordinary sense of victory.

Gohan was as good as back.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Gohan!"

The voice stole the teen's attention for a minute, allowing a clear opening for Goku to land a punch right on his nose. Gohan flew backwards and hit the ground hard.

"Whoops!" the Saiyan rubbed the back of his head in a characteristic gesture. "Sorry 'bout that, Gohan! But you should be paying attention."

Rolling his eyes in a typical teenage manner, Gohan looked at the messanger–namely, Pikkon, who looked a little panicked. "What's up?"

"They've got them," the green fighter said.

Gohan was confused. "Got what?"

"The Dragonballs. They're going to wish you back as soon as they get back to the Capsule place."

The teen felt his jaw drop, and the color drained from his face. Of course he'd been mulling over this upcoming decision almost nonstop, but all of a sudden he actually had to have a choice made. "How long?" he asked nervously.

Pikkon shook his head. "Not much."

Gohan swallowed hard, and cursed softly under his breath in Namekian, one of many things he had picked up from his first mentor, Piccolo.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The seven glowing orbs lay in a messy circle on the ground, a sharp contrast to the neat green grass that made up the front lawn of Capsule Corporation.

Around the Dragonballs was gathered an odd assortment of people. Odd enough that they drew strange looks from passers-by, anyway.

Bulma stood over the Dragonballs and held out her hands. Swallowing hard, she took a deep breath, and called out, "I SUMMON YOU, SHENRON! COME FORTH AND GRANT MY WISHES!"

The sky went dark, and in an explosion of light, the formidable form of Shenron, the Eternal Dragon, snaked its way into the sky and solidified.

The light flashed through the window of a certain room in the Capsule Corporation complex, and across the pale face of a certain teenage girl. The brightness danced across Videl's face, but she did not wake. She didn't even flinch at the light in her eyes.

Outside, people were stopping and pointing in awe and fear at the strange beast that had taken over the skies. Many ran indoors in an attempt to hide; after all, if this was something that had come to destroy them all, best be out of sight. Just in case.

"WHAT IS YOUR FIRST WISH?" the dragon boomed, red eyes flashing. "CHOOSE CAREFULLY, FOR IT WILL COME TRUE!"

Bulma swallowed again, and called up, "I wish Son Gohan back to life!"

Shenron's eyes flashed again.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In Otherworld, Gohan felt the tug.

"Gohan, you have to go back!" Goku protested.

"It is your choice," Pikkon said.

Gohan went over the dreaded pros and cons in his mind again. He thought of Videl, lying near death because of his absence. He thought of his mother and brother. He thought of his friends. He thought of his life. He thought of what he could do there.

But he also thought of what he could do here, and he thought about what there was for him here. And to his mind, they seemed to balance out.

"Gohan!" he could barely hear King Kai's voice calling to him.

"All right!" he shouted. The masses around him fell silent. "I decided..."

With the Eternal Dragon waiting for his word, Gohan announced his decision.

AN: Wow! This turned out a lot longer than I thought it would! I really didn't think I would get this much done in this one chapter! Wow! BTW, do you like my lovely little cliffhanger? Haha. Let's see how it ends, because the next chapter may very well be the last one. Or it might now...I don't know yet.