AN: I'm really really mad as I RETYPE this. Gods above and below…I had a beautiful chapter typed up. I mean, I was extremely proud of that chapter. And then…it got lost. We'll leave it at that. So I'm redoing it. I hope it comes out as good as the original…*sigh* Oh well. I don't own DBZ.

Chapter Sixteen—Gohan's Choice

Gohan's halo vanished.

He stared at the ground for what seemed like a very long time, then lifted his eyes to look at his friends. But surprisingly, he was smiling.

After a brief moment of surprise, most of the Otherworld fighters smiled back.

"Gohan."

The teenager turned and looked his father straight in the eye without hesitation or pretense. "Dad."

Goku sighed. "What decided it for you?"

Gohan's smile grew softer at the question. "I won't let Videl die like that. Not because of me. And I won't do that to Goten or Mom under any circumstances. I don't want to leave this place. I really like it here. But I have a certain amount of responsibility to my friends and family. And," for some reason, he blushed a little at this point, "there are a few things I have to do first."

"These things that you still have to do…do any of them involve a certain young lady?" Pikkon teased. Gods, he was going to miss having that kid around. Gohan had been a breath of fresh air to the fighters residing in Otherworld, with his youth and experience.

The teen's face grew even redder. "Maybe…" he stammered, hiding his real thoughts. And I realized that I can't do to them what Dad did. It nearly killed me when Dad didn't want to come back, and I won't do that to Goten. I wouldn't put Mom through that kind of agony again for anything, and the rest of them don't deserve that kind of thing either. I know what it feels like to try and wish someone back and have them say no. I refuse to do that to them.

He desperately wanted to voice those thoughts, but he didn't dare. He just couldn't bear the idea of leaving his father behind with angry words like those hanging between them.

"Gohan, you'd better hurry," Goku said calmly. "Videl's not getting any better, and we don't want to have to go through this all over again to bring her back, do we?"

"If the dragon could even bring her back," Gohan retorted. "I'll miss you, Dad. I'll miss all of you, actually. You guys are awesome!"

The masses chuckled. The blessed few who had been allowed onto the training grounds of the Otherworld had assembled upon hearing that one of their number would be returning to the world of the living. This was not an everyday thing, after all.

And I'll miss you," Goku's calm shell cracked the tiniest bit. "Take care of everyone for me, especially your mother, and tell Goten I said hi, okay?"

But Gohan didn't have time to reply. He was being pulled along at an insane speed by a unseen force towards an unknown destination. The wind rustled his clothing frantically and whistled past his ears. He closed his eyes and just let himself be pulled along.

Still standing amidst the training grounds in Otherworld, Goku stared at the place where his son had stood merely seconds before. Gohan had made the right choice, of course. It had been nice, getting reacquainted with his son, and he had enjoyed their time together, but there was no getting around the fact that the kid had to go back. Still, Goku was surprised at the pang he felt at the absence.

"Goodbye," he whispered. But the word was lost in the wind.

Gohan was going home.

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

In a dazzling burst of light, the seven magical Dragonballs shot into the sky and flew off in seven different directions, like comets soaring across the darkened sky. That done, the sky returned to its normal color for this time of afternoon, a clear azure blue; the sun resumed its place of honor in the heavens.

Everyone watched in awe as the Dragonballs disappeared, especially Goten, Trunks, and a considerable number of gawkers who had stopped in the street and on the sidewalks to stare at the beastly form of the dragon that had formed in the sky. After all, they had never seen this spectacle before. But when the monster was gone and the light show had finished, the passers-by went on their ways, no longer paying any attention to the odd-looking group standing on the Capsule Corp lawn.

But for the group who had summoned the dragon in the first place, their eyes fell to the ground, where a young man had replaced the circle of Dragonballs on the grass. And for a long, long moment, the world ceased to move.

Goten was the first to regain his ability of motion. He had been clinging to his mother's leg, watching the show with old tears staining his face and new ones forming in his eyes. But now he jumped out from behind his mother and dove forward towards the brother he thought he had lost, blindly certain that his brother would catch him, which he did.

"Big brother! You're back!" Goten squealed, dancing on the knife-edge between laughter and tears. He wrapped his small arms around his brother's neck in the tightest hug he could muster up.

"Hey, squirt. Long time, no see," Gohan said amiably, returning the chibi's hung wholeheartedly. "Just don't choke me, okay? I just got back!"

"Okay! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Goten cried, obviously afraid that he had already angered his beloved and newly revived older brother.

"Goten, it's okay!" Gohan patted the chibi's back reassuringly, but it was too late; the kid was already in tears. "Hey. It's okay, squirt," he said softly, like it was a secret to be shared only between them. "I'm sorry you had to go through this, and I'll do my very best to make sure it never happens again. I'm not going anywhere for a very long time."

Goten raised tear-filled eyes and sniffled. "Promise?"

"Promise. And I don't break promises."

That was good enough for Goten. A smile, as bright as daylight, broke on the chibi's face, and he hugged his brother again, though being extra careful not to choke him.

It was then that ChiChi finally regained her powers of movement, and launched herself at her older son. "Gohan!"

He caught her easily and returned her hug with one arm, as he was still holding Goten with the other. She was in hysterics, but he was surprisingly calm. Then she stepped back and looked him up and down. Tears well in her eyes as she realized that he was wearing an exact copy of his father's trademark blue and orange gi—after all, he needed something to wear during their training sessions in Otherworld. "You look just like your father!" she sobbed, burying her face in the front of his gi.

Like he had done with Goten, he patted her back and tried to be as reassuring as possible. "Mom, it's okay. I'm just fine."

The rest of the crew seemed to take this as their cue, and joined the fray. Gohan had quite a time trying to hug everyone and thank everyone for bringing him back, considering that Goten absolutely refused to let go of him.

After a few minutes of watching his brother being welcomed back, Goten remembered something, and his expression grew very serious. "Brother? Videl's sick."

The group got very quiet. Gohan nodded. "I know. And I'm going to see what I can do about that. I think I might be able to make her better."

"Is it gonna be like Sleeping Beauty?" Goten chirped excitedly. "Are you gonna kiss her, and she'll wake up, and you'll live happily ever after and stuff?"

Gohan very nearly choked. "We'll see. I don't know yet."

"Kay!" Goten squealed.

"Gohan?" Bulma said seriously. She was standing outside the cluster of welcome backers and well wishers, and was waiting next to the door that led into the Capsule Corporation complex.

He nodded at her, then pushed through the group and headed for the door. But there was a problem: Goten still wouldn't let go. He wanted to come along. So finally, after a few minutes of discussion, they just let him tag along.

They followed Bulma into the building. She walked down a few hallways, then stopped by a partially opened door. "She's in there," she pointed towards the room.

"Got it."

"Bring her back, okay?" Bulma smiled.

Gohan nodded. "I'll do my best."

"I'll take this for a minute," she plucked Goten off of Gohan's shoulders and pulled him along with her. "Do what you gotta do."

Goten went with her somewhat unwillingly, and kept calling back over his shoulder for his big brother to bring his big sister back. He waved, but as soon as they disappeared around a corner, the smile vanished from the teen's face. Steeling himself for whatever awaited him, Gohan slipped into the room and pushed the door closed behind him.

Videl was laid out on a bed, like a princess in a fairy tale, waiting for her prince to come and rescue her, except for the fact that fairy tales never described the fair maiden as being tucked in beneath a few layers of blankets. Her face was pale, pain-twisted, and perspiration dotted her forehead. The room was dark, except for the few beams of sunlight that danced in through the window, creating a few bright spots on the floor.

Gohan stayed by the door for a few seconds, then walked across the room and stood by the bed. He really didn't know what he was supposed to do. Finally, he sat down on the edge of the bed.

"Hi, Videl," he said out loud, feeling more than a little silly. "Goten told me you were sick." He reached out with one hand and brushed her bangs away from her face. Her forehead was as hot as a branding iron. His other hand took one of hers and held it.

As he talked to her, prattling aimlessly about his exploits in the Otherworld, he reached not with his hands, but with his mind. To save her, he had to rebuild the broken bond. Easier said than done.

The first thing he would need was an anchor. If he was going into someone else's mind like he was about to, there was a chance that he could be caught up in there and lost. So he needed a mental anchor to hold to and pull himself out with if necessary. That was going to be the easy part.

*Hey, Piccolo, I need an anchor. Feel like volunteering?* he Mindsent.

The first thing he got in response was an aggravated sigh. Then Piccolo's voice, in an equally irritated tone. *What am I, your servant?*

Gohan grinned. *Thanks, Piccolo.* A few seconds later, the mental "rope" was thrown, and Gohan caught it easily. This was what would keep him from getting lost.

Thus anchored, he followed the bond as far as he could. It was like traveling a mental road. Exactly halfway between them was where the break had occurred. Up until that point, it was smooth and easy. But at the break, it was jagged, fragmented, and dotted all over with obstacles. Somewhere up ahead, the bond resumed with Videl, and it would be smooth sailing from there. But he would have to rebuild it in order to get to that point. Once he got there, he could easily follow the bond into her mind.

It was slow, painstaking work, and Gohan's head began to throb from the effort. Still, he pressed on, knowing a few minutes could make all the difference between Videl living and dying. She didn't know he was back, and thus could very well succeed in willing herself to die. He built the bridge ahead of him, and finally, the two halves of the proverbial road were once again joined. If he hadn't been focusing so intently, he probably would have done a victory jig, but instead, he simply slid along the mental link and began his descent into her mind.

But before he could integrate himself into her head, she moved. Not much, but enough that she startled him out of his trance. She groaned, and the sound took the form of a few audible words. "Gohan…why did you leave me?"

He ran a hand along the side of her face. "Shh…I'm right here."

She retreated back into unconsciousness.

Now with renewed determination, he ran along the bond—much more easily this time—and dove headfirst into the darkest recesses of Videl's mind. That was where she would be in this state. He "swam" around, searching for the spark of her life, with only the mental line from Piccolo keeping him from "drowning," so to speak. Finally, after pushing down into the very back of her mind, he found her. The sparkle that was Videl's life force. As he pulled her back towards herself by following his anchor, he shuddered at how close she really had been to oblivion. Too close for comfort.

Pulling himself along the line to Piccolo, he finally wrenched free and flew back to himself. He sat back, panting, and trying to will his head to stop throbbing.

*Thanks a ton, Mr. Piccolo,* he sent wearily, releasing the thread.

*Yeah, no problem.*

He looked down at Videl, and what he saw was reward enough. The color had flooded back into her face, and her breathing had grown deeper and evened out. But she wasn't awake yet.

"Is it gonna be like Sleeping Beauty? Are you gonna kiss her, and she'll wake up, and you'll live happily ever after and stuff?"

Goten's words ran back through Gohan's mind, and he considered it carefully. Ah, what the hell.

He leaned down and gently touched his lips to Videl's.

For a minute, there was nothing. Then he felt a response.

"Hmm…Gohan?" Videl whispered, though her words were muffled by the kiss.

He pulled back and looked calmly into her now-open eyes, the color of sapphires. "Yes?"

She stared at him in wide-eyed disbelief. "You're…you're here! You're back!"

He pretended to look around, then nodded. "Yes, I am here! And you're there!"

"Shut up," she said weakly.

"Hey, I just got back from the dead. I have a right to catch on being annoying."

"Feel free to forget that privelege around me. I won't hold it against you," she groaned. "So… how long have you been back?"

"About ten minutes, I think. Had to fight my way out from under everyone else," he said. Then he noticed that she was looking down. "Something on your mind?"

"Yeah…" she muttered. "This is gonna sound really stupid, and probably really paranoid, but…I almost didn't think you were gonna come back, Gohan. I really didn't. I thought you were going to say no when the wish was made, and then you would stay in Otherworld with your father forever."

He chose not to enlighten her on how right she was—that he almost refused the chance at renewed life. Instead, he simply smiled. "Well, I'm here, aren't I?"

"You couldn't leave Goten or your mom behind," she sighed. "I guess I should have realized that, huh? Man, I'm a moron."

"Videl, there's more to it than that," he admonished her. "I couldn't leave you behind either. And don't forget it. Videl, I don't know if you realize this or not, but you nearly died."

The surprise that wrote itself across her face made it perfectly clear that no, she had not realized that. "What do you mean, I nearly died?"

"A broken bond. You almost willed yourself to die because you didn't think I was coming back," he explained. "And I don't know if a wish to the dragon could have revived you."

"Oh…" her voice trailed off. "Gohan?"

"Yeah?"

"What do you mean by a broken bond?"

He grinned. "Tell you what. Let's make a deal. My mother said that there is going to be an enormous dinner tonight to celebrate me coming back. If you can put up with the members of the insanity squad out there for a couple of hours, I'll explain everything to you."

"Everything I want to know?"

"Within reason."

"Deal," she reached out and shook his hand to seal the pact. "Speaking of dinner, I'm starving." She pushed the blankets off of her legs.

He jumped back and sketched a mock bow. "Shall we, my lady?" he intoned dramatically, offering her his arm like a courtier of olden days.

She giggled. "Why yes, good sir," she accepted his arm and got to her feet. Then she stepped forward and slid her arms around his waist, letting her head rest comfortably against his chest. "Don't you ever, EVER scare me like that again, do you understand?"

"Got it. Don't ever die again. Sounds like a good plan to me," he replied jokingly, though she could tell that he was completely serious.

"Good. You don't want to know what I'll do to you if you die again…" she threatened.

"What would you do, kill me?" he asked, sounding genuinely confused.

She rolled her eyes. "Come on, let's go eat."

Arm in arm, Gohan and Videl walked out the door and down the hallway, following the delicious smell of cooking food that was beckoning them towards the promised dinner.

Videl sighed happily. There really hadn't been anything to worry about. That much, she realized in hindsight. Even if he had thought about staying in the Otherworld, it didn't matter. Gohan was back now, and if she had anything to say about it, he was never going to leave again. She felt better than she had in a long time. She remembered back to something she had told herself the night she and Gohan had shared a dance in her dreams. Sometimes, you just needed to have a little faith.

AN: The end! Voila, a newly retyped chapter (in record time) to close out this story. This is my record for longest time it took to finish a story—what, five or six months? Hehe…sorry 'bout that. If you didn't like my ending, I'm very sorry. But I LIKE HAPPY ENDINGS!!!! That's just the way I write. Thank you to everyone who has stayed with me over the long duration of this tale. See ya around!