Holy shit guys, I am so sorry about the huge lag in updates on this! I was on such a roll and then... I don't even know. I had the first hundred or so words typed of this and then I moved house, and then some awful family stuff happened and after that I was overseas for a few weeks, and well, I've been back nearly two months so the excuses kind of end there. So this is quite a bit shorter than the first two chapters, but I kind of just want to put something up so that I can get a bit of feedback, a bit of motivation. I hope it's not too lacklustre! It's just a bit chatty, really. There'll hopefully be another chapter or so. Just gotta figure out what I want to do...
Gohan had almost burst into laughter when he received a message on his phone that seemed to radiate fear. It was from Trunks, and it had read, "I know this is not what you had in mind and I am very sorry. Please don't kill me."
Similarly, he had held back a smirk when Trunks had shielded his face and half-crumpled to the porch as Gohan opened the front door. The two had not seen each other since the day Gohan had discussed his daughter with Trunks, and even their communication had been limited to the aforementioned message, which Gohan had responded to, succinctly, with 'We'll see."
Trunks had shown up unexpectedly on a Friday afternoon, and the sight of him cowering in the doorway was nothing short of hilarious. Gohan stood aside to allow space for Trunks to enter the house, and said, "Do you really think posing like that would prevent me from destroying you if I wanted to?"
"Nope. No, I do not," Trunks responded meekly, and stepped out of his shoes once inside.
Gohan would be the first to admit that he wasn't exactly in touch with the social aspects of... well, basically anything. He had gotten better over the years, but was always happy to be the marionette his career required of him, and reserve his actual self for those who already knew it all.
When it came to raising his daughter, Videl and himself had opted to make sure she could grow up as conventionally as possible, but it had been with a bit of misplaced optimism. From the get-go, Pan had been completely unapologetic about who she was, so initially it had seemed like her schooling could go smoothly. Those hopes were dashed by the time Pan was in her teens, and the change was swift and merciless. No longer was Gohan's daughter a bubbly, opinionated force to be reckoned with. Instead she was reserved, secretive and listless. At home, she could be coaxed into socialisation, but that wasn't enough, not for Pan or her parents.
A couple of weeks prior to reuniting with Trunks, Pan had come home during a school day and succumbed to a deep depression that had been eating away at her for way too long. She had huddled into her blanket and forced herself into a restless sleep until her parents had come home from work and found her. When Gohan had seen her, it had broken his heart. He had been through this before with her, but to know that there wasn't any distinct reason this time made him feel completely helpless. Even though he was well aware at this point that his daughter was more fragile than she let on, it still came as a shock to Gohan that his own style of resilience seemed to have skipped over his offspring. It made him feel guilty in a way, even though he knew one couldn't control things like this.
In any case, he wasn't sure he wanted his daughter to be so resilient. He wanted her to feel things, to recognise what was normal and what was not, so that she could be like everybody else. He just didn't want her to be depressed. Were they the only two options? It seemed that way. She could either take the blows and operate like a robot, or let it all wear her down so much that she never wanted to wake up again.
There wasn't some great overnight recovery. When Pan came home after the first time she spent time with Trunks however, she did seem like she was carrying less weight on her shoulders. It was a start.
In casual clothes, instead of business attire, Trunks looked a lot younger. While closer in age to Gohan, in comparison to the age gap with Pan, he still seemed to be from a different generation. Gohan supposed that perhaps he just felt a distinction between himself and other people anyway, having felt like he'd lived a lifetime before he even met Videl. Goten and Trunks experienced a much longer period of peace than Gohan ever had, and it had allowed them much more normalcy. So, when the TV showed people in their thirties living these fast-paced, cosmopolitan lifestyles, Gohan was much more able to see the two younger men represented than he had been at a similar age.
It was something he had been thinking about a lot, ever since Videl had informed him of the situation with their daughter and Trunks. Were they able to be on the same page? Did it reflect badly on Trunks if they were? Videl had suggested they let it play out for a short time, to give them the benefit of the doubt, a solution Gohan felt to be extremely laid back. He wasn't personally outraged, but he knew he was MEANT to be. Story of his life, really; feeling differently to how he was 'meant' to.
Maybe he'd just never gotten used to the rules of the real world.
It wasn't until this surprise meeting that Gohan noticed just how obvious it was that Trunks, outside of Capsule Corp was a different specimen to the professional. Outside of work, Trunks was much more likely to second guess himself, to stumble over words, to project youthfulness. Seeing where there'd be common ground with Pan wasn't as difficult if Gohan removed Trunks's professional life from the equation.
They sat across from each other in the lounge room and drank coffee that Gohan had rushed to make upon inviting Trunks inside. It felt like something had changed. A few weeks ago, they could have done this and it would have looked like two adults having coffee and catching up, or discussing business. Now, it felt like some kind of interview. As if Gohan would ever have the professional authority to boss Trunks around. And yet, in this room, the ball was in Gohan's court and he could easily tell Trunks to leave and never speak to Pan again. He could do that. Maybe some parents would do that. A small part of his brain warned him, pushed the idea that if this went up in flames he would regret letting it go so far.
But, he didn't ask Trunks to leave. He let him stay. They drank coffee, and talked awkwardly about a few work-related tidbits before Trunks stammered, "I haven't slept with her."
Gohan paused, mug half way to his mouth. Eyebrows raised, he replied, "Um. Okay."
He had wanted to be a bit more threatening and eloquent but Trunks' own lack of confidence was rubbing off on him it seemed. If Trunks had come into his home and acted smarmy or entitled, Gohan knew how to handle that. He knew how to be terrifying when it really, really mattered. There was something so sincere about Trunks at that moment though, and it threw him for a loop. He shouldn't have been surprised, since Trunks had always been somewhat humble with women, or at least he had been with the few Gohan had met over the years. It would have been very easy for Trunks to step up as the dominant half of whatever this thing with Pan was, but it seemed as if he were fighting against that.
"Sorry," Trunks said, avoiding Gohan's gaze and fixing his eyesights on a bookshelf. "I just thought you might want an..." he trailed off.
"Update?" Gohan replied, finding it in himself to be a bit sarcastic. "Sure. That's very thoughtful of you, Trunks."
"I have good intentions," said Trunks, and this time he sounded a bit more sure of himself.
Gohan sighed and took a sip of his coffee. "I know," he said. "I don't think I have the right to assume badly of you after all we've gone through over the years."
Trunks visibly relaxed at that sentiment. "You're allowed to assume whatever you want, but thanks for remembering all of my brilliance and heroics," he said with a grin.
Gohan was about to respond with more sarcasm when he felt a familiar force touch down at the front door, and glanced back at Trunks who immediately caught on. Pan stepped into the house, and they could hear her shoes being kicked off and, following that, her sock-covered feet padding into the lounge where they sat.
"I thought I felt you here!" Pan said, clearly pleased that Trunks had stopped by. Gohan studied Trunks as Pan sat down beside him. She tucked her feet up under her knees and smoothed her school skirt as if her own presentation was important in this situation. She fixed her eyes on Gohan, and he saw a sparkle in her eyes. It felt like she was challenging him to say something disapproving. Once upon a time, Gohan may have sighed and geared up for an argument, as such a look had, on numerous occasions, been indicative of Pan being purposefully antagonistic in a very teenage kind of way. This time, he was just happy to see such determination in her eyes. He hadn't seen anything other than sadness for quite a while, and that glimmer felt like a step towards having Pan happy again.
So, Gohan set his mug down on the table and studied the two people sitting across from him. Two adults? Maybe. Was he ready to see his daughter as an adult, yet? He was probably going to have to start, ready or not. There was just one thing in the way at the moment...
"Pan," he said, and she blinked, the determination cracking for just a second. "Change out of your school uniform. Then we'll talk."