Brought to you by Boboleta
He hated that lamp.
Well, 'hate' was a strong word but... yeah, he kind of hated it. Videl bought it, of course, as she did most of the things around their home, but tonight the damn light was really bothering the crap out of him.
The man sighed, absentmindedly shaking his head at the absurd thoughts that roamed around his mind. He really wanted to finish this report before slipping off to bed but that excruciating buzzing noise from that damn lamp was only adding insult to injury, drilling through his once-impeccable focus and discipline and inducing what he just knew was one of those headaches. There was no way he was going to get this done tonight.
He removed his glasses, lazily throwing them on top of the papery mess that his workload created on his desk. The specs were but a mere accessory, yet as time went by he'd actually grown fond of them if only for the fact that they helped maintain the appearance that he wanted to desperately portray and not his... true self. His eyes carried the weight of yet another long night and he rubbed them for comfort, gaining a speck of extra energy from the action.
Slowly he hoisted himself up, grabbing the wooden armrests for support and walked away, not bothering to tidy up as he usually did. Reaching the stairwell to the upper floor, he flicked the lights off and removed his slippers before climbing up, preferring his bare feet over waking up his girls. It was 2 a.m. already, his wrist watch told him.
Normally, his first and most important stop would be the door to his right, decorated with colored butterfly stickers and a big fabric 'P', pink and purple. Tonight, he discarded it though, bee-lining towards his own bedroom since he knew the other one to be empty. Never since his baby girl was born did he let her ki signature slip out of his constant attention. It was the first thing he searched for when he woke up and the last thing he checked before drifting into sleep. The door was slightly open, as it was every time one of them stayed up past their regular bedtime of 11 p.m. and he carefully nudged it further.
A big deep breath replenished him as the sight forced the customary smile and his head to lean against the archway. The dim glow of the moon illuminated the otherwise pitch black haven where his heart and his soul were peacefully resting in a deep slumber. His wife and his daughter, cuddling in a warm bundle he'd spend hours contemplating if life didn't get in the way. He'd seen so many things in his twenty-something years. So much hurt and pain and sorrow. There was a time in his past that no matter what anyone else could tell him, he wouldn't mind if he died. The other dimension did have its benefits after all, as his revived father later shared with him. But not anymore. Heaven was right there in front of him. There was nothing King Yemma could offer him, now. He had it all.
Suddenly, a loud chirpy tune made him jump back in horror, cursing whoever it was that thought it was a good idea to dial for his cellphone at this time of the night. Quickly walking away so as not to wake them up - if the damn thing hadn't managed to do it already - he finally succeeded in taking it off his pants' pocket. The name on the screen brought a whole array of new feelings and he quickly pressed the green button. "Hello?"
"Gohan! I'm so sorry to wake you up!"
"Calm down, mom. What's wrong?!" He asked, poised and steady, like so many people have told him he normally was when under pressure. Even so, his mind raced through the options, the bad and the worse since the decorum his mother defended so fervently on a daily basis wouldn't accommodate for middle-of-the-night calls for anything less than a cataclysmic event of some sort.
"He just walked in! He says he's ok but I know he's not! He's not! He pushed me!"
"Who pushed you?! Where's dad?"
"He's at the Kame house for their get-together," Chi-Chi responded, hysterical, and Gohan didn't care to listen to the rest of the explanation since he remembered now about their yearly get-together. Master Roshi and his students in a 'guys night', or so they called it. How could anything good come out of that premise alone was beyond him but hey, at least they were having fun. He interrupted her flow of information.
"Ok, so who pushed you?" A hand on his back startled him and he turned around frowning a bit from the realization that the damn phone had indeed woken his wife up. Between his mother's voice and her concerned blue eyes, he cursed internally and mouthed an 'I'm sorry' towards Videl. She shook her head to clear his worries and reached over to touch his hard chest, a gesture she confessed to him on past occasions brought her comfort and safety.
After a warm caress on her beautiful cheek, he let his hand take its place on the small of her back as Chi-Chi continued, now sobbing on the other side of the line. "G-Goten..."
Gohan's features charged an unbelieving scowl at the idea. His happy-go-lucky little brother pushed their mother?! What the hell?! "W-Why? Is he still there?"
"Yes! But he's mad at something and I don't know what else to do! He won't hear a word out of my mouth! I... I didn't want to call Goku..." A loud crash was heard from the Son's household and it escalated the sense of alarm that overpowered his saiyan instincts. Without another word Gohan gave the phone to his wife. "Stay on the line with her," he urged, kissing her lips in one rushed peck, an instinctive action whenever he was to leave her. Videl nodded and quickly took the device from his hands, pleading a "Be careful" that he didn't respond to since there was no need. Not with her. Opening the closest window, he flew up to the skies for a safe distance before powering up with a shockwave and vanishing into the night.
He knew she worried, even though she was perfectly aware of his abilities and strength. Any additional mile apart was like another nail in her heart and the urgency could only add to the feeling of powerlessness. The worries were hers alone but he was her husband, after all. The moon and the stars, without which the night had no meaning - her words on their wedding night. The memory made him smile.
Videl closed the window again, making sure to leave it unlocked, and brought the phone up to her face. "Chi-Chi? ... He's on his way."...
"Oh, thank God." Chi-Chi blurted to the phone in her hand. "He's here, Videl. Thank you so much, honey. ... Yes, definitely. ... Bye." Hanging up the phone, she rushed to her eldest, hugging him tightly around the waist.
Gohan indulged on it for a second, absorbing his surroundings constituted of misplaced furniture and the broken glass from a fallen picture frame. His frown spoke to his concern and for that irrational feeling of being at fault for the disarray. There was no way he could help it, though. For years he was this woman's companion, helping with everything he could, mainly when it came to Goten and more demanding chores like chopping wood or fishing. Even with his father back home, even if he was now a married man and a parent, even so... he should have been here for her.
Gently, he removed her hands from his body, inspecting her arms and then her face. "Are you ok?" She nodded.
"Did he do this?" Gohan asked, referring and looking at the mess he assumed the whirlwind that is Goten must've created in his wake.
She nodded again. "He's not himself, Gohan. Something happened at that party he went to, I just know it," Chi-Chi spoke, almost in a whisper.
"Where is he?" Her parted lips were prepared to give a response but another crashing sound from within his former home beat them to it. Gohan walked fast and deliberately towards the bedroom he once shared with his brother.
Arriving at the open door, he stopped, trying to make sense of what he was looking at, studying the figure hunching over the small desk that was his own at one point in time. Someone else would see but a boy, standing quiet and motionless but Gohan pierced through the shell immediately. His ki told him a different story and the microscopical twitching and shaking completed the package of a disturbed, highly emotional being. This person wasn't his little brother. What could have made him... this? "Goten," he whispered.
The youngest saiyan spun around harshly at the unexpected voice he'd recognize anywhere. More than his mother's. More than his father's or Trunks'. The first voice he heard when he came into this world and the last one he wanted to hear that night. Chi-Chi was right behind Gohan and his gaze shifted directly to her. "You called him?!" He shouted, obviously hurt at being betrayed.
"Honey, I..." The woman started, not sure of how to finish the sentence but there was no need to. He cut right in again.
"What the hell did you do that for?!" His voice was increasingly louder and he started pacing, breathing heavily and aimlessly looking at random things around his room.
Gohan couldn't make sense of the scene in front of him. It was like looking at a cornered beast he didn't realize his brother had within himself. The older saiyan had his fair share of 'stuff' that came with those oh-so-glorious years that were the 'teens', but this looked like something more. Something else. He took another step before Goten rapidly interjected. "Don't come any closer!"
"Just... don't! Go away!"
"No! Leave me alone!" He grabbed the first thing he saw that just so happened to be a calculator from his earlier math homework, sending it flying with precision towards his brother's head. Catching it effortlessly, Gohan threw it lazily to the bed, not removing his eyes from him. Goten kept panting loudly and rapidly and with each breath came proof of the variable that no longer eluded his older brother. It was as clear now as it was unexpected. Their stares met and matched in piercing intensity but it were Gohan's words that broke the contest.
"You're drunk," he repeated. "I can smell it from here."
"So what Mr. Boy-Scout?! I do what I want!"
"You're fourteen years-old."
"Goten!" Chi-Chi's voice was heard.
"Shut up, mom!"
The plan of action traced itself on Gohan's mind as he stomped over to his brother and clutched his shirt in a fist, pulling him towards the door and switching his method to a choke hold when the youngest forced his way out of the garment. Goten fought back, punching and kicking but Gohan just took it, wincing from the pain only another saiyan could cause and stumbling from the harder impacts but unrelentingly, stopping solely when they arrived at the bathroom. Goten violently tossed and turned, bringing down to the ground the assorted toiletries that populated the shelves and marbled counter.
With one final pull, Gohan spun him around and unceremoniously forced his back against the shower wall, breaking a series of crisp white tiles in the process and pinning his little brother with the weight of his own body while struggling to keep him in place. "Let! Me! Go!" Goten yelled, punctuating each word.
His brother didn't listen and with a swift, hurried move he reached for the blue faucet by his side and cranked it open, letting the incredibly cold water rain down on them both, soaking them immediately and causing Goten to growl defensively, but he didn't budge. His seasoned gaze had seen it all throughout his eventful life and behind the veil of the hormone-induced tantrum, decorated with the boisterous trimming of good ol' alcohol, he saw a familiar tint taking over his little brother's once innocent, unconcerned eyes.
Hurt. Confusion. Despair.
For who-knows-how-many years it had been the same look that greeted him on the rare occasions he'd dare look in the mirror. It became a part of him after a point and only the infrangible determination of the love of his life broke the downward spiral he'd gotten himself into. But that was him. How could his loving, carefree brother have caught the same virus? What could've caused such a stain in the fabric of the universe? Next thing he knew his father would go on a diet and then all the other signs of the apocalypse would come rolling out before culminating in hell freezing over.
The drops trickled from their hair to their faces and out their chins, disturbed only by the harsh breaths that sent them flying on some random direction. Goten punched his brother repeatedly on the ribs, but he only responded by gripping tighter and harder, silently, patiently, taking the pain with little groans and flinches only, like it was his punishment for not noticing the cry for help that was as loud as it was unspoken.
A couple of minutes was all that it took before the youngest Son's stamina and drive started to falter. Physically tired, mentally spent, it was too much for him and when the last punch connected with Gohan's side it came sloppy and irrelevant, slowly making its way towards his back into a hug that was quickly reciprocated. Shame took his features and dejection, his heart, making his head tilt down to rest on the sentry that held him captive. His chest felt cozy and familiar through the drenched clothes. He started to sob, quietly but wholeheartedly.
How long had it been since they hugged? Since they talked? The feeling corroded his insides like acid and stabbed harder than any of Goten's angry punches ever could. Abandonment... that was his sin. Their father was home now - for years even - but how was that a reason, an excuse for his absence from the boy's life? His job wasn't an excuse. Videl wasn't an excuse and neither was Pan. He didn't make him, biologically speaking, but the young man in his arms was still his in a way.
Gohan fought through his own tears and looked back over his shoulder to their mother, concerned but relieved at the same time. Discretely, he signaled her for some dry clothes and she obliged, dashing to the corresponding location within their home to retrieve them.
His hand was quick to stop the downpour and came to rest behind Goten's neck, raking up and down across his hairline in a motion he'd learned long ago to bring him comfort. Up and down. Softly and slowly. Their mother came and went, knowing all too well how completely useless she would be in this situation. Her heart on her hands but her trust in her eldest, she retreated to the master bedroom. Gohan would come for her if the need should arise.
After a while, all that remained were the youngest saiyan's erratic exhales and Gohan loosened his grip around him, bringing both hands up to cup his flushed cheeks. He forced his gaze deep into his very soul, hoping to find the answers to a problem he now felt responsible for, whatever it was. They were there... but he couldn't read them. He spoke no words and showed no feelings other than the ones his stern look and deliberate moves provided.
Stepping out of the white ceramic base, Gohan reached for a towel and handed it back to his brother, who took it, shaking with a mixture of cold shivers and anxiety. Their bodies were dried and their clothes changed before the eldest silently commanded their path into the kitchen area where Goten planted himself into his usual seat at the table.
No words. No feelings. Not before a cup of hot chocolate took its place between their hands. Goten was the one to break the uncomfortable silence, his voice raspy and low. "I don't want to talk about it."
"That's too bad," Gohan said solemnly, eying his hot beverage mindlessly. "Because you don't really have a choice."
The youngest saiyan clenched his jaw. He hated when his brother was like this. 'Adult' and 'in charge'. Ever since he could remember Gohan had been a figure of authority in his life but he was also playful and fun. It wasn't fair as far as Goten was concerned, getting to be one without being the other. Some kind of poisonous feeling he didn't really associate with the alcohol in his system made his blood boil at the thought and that anger started to fill him up again. "Says who?" He uttered through his gritted teeth.
Gohan responded with a glare. "We're not playing this game, Goten."
"You'd know about playing," he murmured sarcastically, taking a big sip of about half of his scorching hot chocolate and cursing silently for it being so delicious. The way only his big brother was able to make it, damn him.
"Could you repeat that, please? I didn't quite get it."
"God! Can't you give me a break?! I'm tired. I just want to go to sleep."
"You're not tired, you're drunk. You're fourteen, Goten!"
"Well, I'm sorry that all of us mere mortals are not as perfect as you, brother. I'll try harder next time."
The sardonic tone he would be able to easily dismiss but that word caught the older saiyan completely off guard. He considered himself to be all sorts of things but... "Perfect?! What the hell is that supposed to mean?!"
"Yes, perfect!" Goten snapped, glowering. "With your perfect scores and your perfect job. And your perfect hot wife with your perfect little daughter in your perfect fucking house!"
Gohan just stared at him, calm and collected but surprised nonetheless. His life was a blessing - he would admit that to anybody - but himself? Perfect? Definitely not an adjective he'd consider fitting and never would he even consider it being as how other people saw him. Given his wife was perfect, as was their baby girl. His house was neat but a mere possession. His job... The things in his life were the ones that gave it worth and not the other way around, and surely it hadn't always been like this. After a while he sighed, shaking his head. "I'm not perfect, Goten."
"I'm not." He paused, returning his eyes down to the hot chocolate. "I'm over-emotional and insecure. I clearly overthink things to exhaustion. I do my best, but... I'm not perfect."
"Fuck you," Goten spoke quietly to the cup between his hands, and Gohan could see him cringing minutely, probably because he was cursing repeatedly in his by-the-book home.
If he just knew how much he was definitely not perfect, Gohan thought. This whole situation was proof of it. It should never have gotten to this point. He should have been here for his little brother, noticing the warning signs, offering support and love. Like he did for the first half of his life. What went wrong? When? Way back there, in the limits of awareness, he knew the answer.
The day that his mother announced her pregnancy was one of the most horrible days of his life, and that was saying a lot since it wasn't even a month since his father had died. The day he realized that not only had he just lost his father but he had also orphaned his unborn brother in the process. It was too much for him to take and it haunted him to this day that he robbed Goten of their father during those first years of his life - the ones that he himself was closest to Goku - even if everyone around him insisted that the whole Cell fiasco wasn't his fault. As Chi-Chi's stomach grew larger so did his pain and it was then that he learned the concealing art of deception, keeping those feelings hostage with lock and key for the sake of his mother's well-being.
But then, in the blink of an eye and with one final push, this precious little creature made its way into his arms and his heart in a way he only now fully recognized as 'becoming a father'. Behind that nasty mess that inescapably came with childbirth, he could still see the unmistakable spikes of hair that spoke to his inheritance. As he was there to see his father die, there he was watching him being reborn through his little brother. It gave him purpose and it gave him hope.
Seven years and one revived Son later, his only true wish of a united family came to fruition. Goten and Goku got along so well right from the get-go that it truly warmed his heart and lightened his shoulders, but as it brought him peace it brought him something else, too. Differentiation.
As much as the young man became the father Goten never had, Goku also became the brother Gohan could never be to him. His partner in crime and in life. A completely carefree one.
From the moment he was born it became obvious to everyone, family and friends, that the youngest saiyan and his father were two peas in a pod and not only when it came to physical resemblance. Outstanding curiosity and never ending energy. The ability to live in the moment. Constant happiness and adorable ingenuousness. He craved all and had none and so it became painfully evident that there was no longer room for him there. He felt misplaced.
Out of context.
He didn't fit in.
Goten's voice brought him out of his stupor. "You have everything going for you. I'm... trash.
"You're NOT trash! What the hell is wrong with you?!" Gohan cracked, losing his composure. This was NOT his brother! Trash?! Immediately, his deep frown disappeared and the sight clenched his gut. Goten's trembling lip and watery eyes pierced a hole through his heart and he instinctively jumped up and around the table to take the seat next to his on the long bench, wrapping him once again in an embrace. His nose furrowed into the older saiyan's chest, searching for solace in its depths in an action that brought Gohan more comfort than it should given the circumstances. It felt so familiar and overdue, though. Softly, he pleaded. "Please... tell me what's going on."
"I... I can't."
"You can. You can tell me anything."
"...you'll tell them."
"I won't if you don't want me to." Goten rolled his eyes and shook his head. 'When did I lose his faith?' Gohan gloomed before clarifying with a new choice of words. "I'll just tell them enough to put them at rest and nothing more, ok?"
There was no response. It was breaking the older saiyan's heart but he pushed it aside to make space for the support his little brother needed. "Please," he whispered against his damp hair.
His words were verging on hopelessness, whimpered more than spoken. "I don't know what to do."
"About what? Did something happen?"
"Tonight?" Gohan inquired, his stomach churning in anticipation.
He nodded again. "At the party."
"I... he just..." The youngest saiyan hesitated, rerouting the entirety of his resolve into hiding his face from the world and blushing profusely even if no one could see it. "He... kissed me."
"Some guy... Kay."
Goten's face shot up, shame be damned. "Isn't that enough?!"
"Well... did you like it?"
"No! ... I don't know. I didn't want to like it."
"He's a guy!" He shouted as if it was obvious.
"And?" Goten's awe-struck expression, complete with open mouth and expanded shocked eyes would make the eldest saiyan chuckle, but he repressed it for the sake of how this was affecting the boy. "Is that what's bothering you? That you kissed a guy?"
"He kissed me!" He hurried to correct.
"Was he hot?" Gohan joked.
"Oh, come on, Goten. How is that a problem?" Goten just blinked in reply, his parted lips trying to form the words that would help him speak to his bewilderment. This was obviously an important issue for him. Gohan saw it in his body language and in his ki, but most of all he saw it in his forced breaths, ridden with anxiety.
He knew that kids were cruel and he could just imagine what kind of things Goten's classmates had to say on the matter. Most likely something insulting. He knew that his little brother would never think that homosexuality was wrong but maybe he didn't think it was natural, either.
Himself, their dad, Vegeta, Krillin... every single man Goten knew was straight. Trunks even had a girlfriend. Maybe he felt like he came out wrong. Different.
Like he didn't fit in.
Gohan's hands made their way to his shoulders, instantly feeling the palpable tension accumulated beneath. A smile accompanied his speech, both filled with love. "It's ok to be confused, Goten. God, girls were the most confusing thing in the world to me when I went to highschool. It's ok to not know what you want or how you feel. You're a kid! How will you know who you are or what you like if you don't experiment?"
"Did... did you kiss any boys? Ever?"
"Are you kidding?! I was lucky I ever met any other boys. I don't even know how I came to kiss Videl!"
Goten chuckled and it felt like sweet victory. Making him see the good in bad things was something that Gohan was always capable of achieving, even if the older saiyan never managed the feat for himself. Only now did he realize how much he missed being here for him, helping with his homework, explaining things that he didn't understand. About school and life. Maybe if he did the world wouldn't seem so hard and confusing, right now. No wonder he had doubts. No wonder he was lost. Gohan loved his dad but... Goten needed him.
"I was lucky." The eldest continued. "I didn't have to choose if I liked boys or girls because I simply liked... her, you know?"
He nodded, looking down to his hands. "...what do I do?"
"Whatever feels good. Whatever feels right. You're a good kid, Goten. What does your heart tell you?"
Goten considered his response but this time it came flowing, free of doubts. "I don't think I like him like that, but... I don't know. It felt... nice."
"Well, your first kiss normally does." The littlest tear streamed down his cheek and Gohan thumbed it clean, gently and slowly.
"Do you think so?"
"Of course. Boy or girl, it's still a kiss." He paused, tilting his little brother's jaw up to meet him. His eyes spoke along with his mouth. "Don't rush it. You have your whole life ahead of you to figure things out, ok?"
Goten nodded one last time and Gohan stood up. "I have to say, though. I can't tell you what you feel or don't feel but... I've seen how you look at Videl. And Bulma, and 18 and even my friend Erasa." He paused, taking the empty cups to the sink and leaning against it, arms crossed. "You like girls, man."
"Shut up." Embarrassment rushed and answered for him, armed with a shy smile.
Gohan spoke in all his mischievous seriousness. "Maybe you're 'bi'. You can alternate: boys on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; girls on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays."
"And then on Sundays you can have either none so you can rest, or both!"
"GOHAN!" Goten stood up with a scream, appalled by what he just said let alone the mere thought of it being any kind of a reality to him. 'Do people actually do that?!'
The older saiyan chuckled in amusement before returning his hands to the younger one's shoulders. "Look. I know that no one in this house has ever taught you that being gay is wrong, because it isn't. So get that stuff out of your head, ok?"
"Ok, but... how will I know?"
"You just will. It will be so obvious that you can't miss it, given that you're not too afraid to see it for what it is," he paused, "plus you are who you are and we all love you no matter what happens. No matter what you choose. Remember that."
They traded a smile and a gaze that lingered for a moment before hugging again. He'd missed this the most, the contact. His little baby, his little boy, and now his little man was gradually carving his own path in the world, in a way that both lifted him up with pride and brought him down in melancholy from moments past. Silently, he swore to himself that this weight that Goten had been bearing alone would have been his last one, rapidly accessing his memory for next week's schedule and rearranging it to accommodate for the time he clearly owed his brother. These kinds of doubts were not for him to have and he would see to it until the day that he'd die.
"Will you be ok?" Gohan asked soothingly and Goten nodded, leaning away from their bundle. A small smile signed off on the answer and reassured the eldest of its truthfulness. "Then go and hug mom goodnight, ok? She must be worried sick."
"What if... she asks me about it?"
"You can either tell her the truth or you can tell her that I took care of it. It's your choice," Gohan explained and observed as his mind considered the options. "Ok?"
"Now go. I have to get home to my perfect hot wife and my perfect little daughter."
Goten chuckled, scratching the back of his neck in a gesture of nervousness that came with the genes in both their bodies. He did said that, didn't he? "I love you, Gohan."
"I love you, too."
A few steps led him over to the door towards the room area before Gohan's voice stopped him. "Things will be different, Goten." He turned around, connecting eye to eye again. "I promise."
"I don't need different." Goten said, smiling. "I just need you."
The older saiyan nodded softly as he watched him resume his path. He contained his grin in fear that it would bring with it other emotions that he stubbornly wanted to keep for himself. Videl always scolded him for trapping in his tears, refusing to let them leave his eyes but he just couldn't bring himself to let them go. He took off as well, deciding to relieve of them in the dark of the night where he could pretend they never came to be.
Quietly, he made his way outside and clicked the door behind him, taking a moment to breathe in the cool serenity that only uncorrupted nature could bring him before lifting up, full speed ahead. Living nearer to the city had its benefits but coming home would always replenish him with a feeling of belonging that no other physical place had ever been able to accomplish in his life. Well, other than wherever his girls were, at any given time. That was his place, ultimately. No doubt about it and no way around it.
As with all the matters of the heart, when you know... you just do. You can't miss it.
Reviews/opinions/comments are welcome.