Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Note: Sorry it took so long for me to get this chapter out there, folks. December and January were extremely busy, stressful months. On top of that, I wrote something like five completed drafts (not kidding!) of this chapter and was still unsatisfied—until around February 10th when I sat down and poured out over 75% of what you'll read in this final draft. I tried to capture the weary, somber atmosphere of the characters' near defeat as best I could.


CHAPTER NINE: PIECES


BULMA

The emergency room at West City Hospital was utter chaos...and minutes later it was still, silent, and steeped in sadness.

A few hours ago, the blue-haired heiress, Puar, and Chiaotzu had maneuvered their way over several miles of barren terrain and discovered the dire consequences of King Cold's short visit to Earth. She'd never seen so much blood in one place—not even on the battlefield where Yamcha, Tien, Piccolo, and Chiaotzu had died fighting Vegeta and his brutish Saiyan companion two years ago. It had made her physically sick—twice. But she and her remaining friends had managed to find everyone, scattered amongst the alien body parts and rubble. The heiress had sprung into action immediately, selecting the largest cargo plane in her arsenal of capsules to transport the injured combatants back to civilization.

She sat now, in the hospital's sterilized emergency care ward, dressed in poorly-fitting scrubs since her clothing had been covered in blood and flecks of flesh, the evidence of her struggles to drag everyone into the cargo bay of her plane and keep them alive. Even her shoes had to be thrown away, and the linoleum was uncomfortably cold under her bare feet. She was still panting—and her heart still pounding like a frantic drum—from the effort and utter trauma of it all. She had been certain she would lose someone on the way over here, but miraculously, everyone was alive—for now, anyway.

However, no one had escaped the deadly encounter unscathed.

Yamcha and Krillin suffered from several numerous, painful scrapes and bruises. They would be treated and released within a few hours. Tien was badly burned from an energy blast and Gohan had several fractures. Both would have to stay at the hospital for the night. Piccolo had refused to enter the establishment, citing his own natural healing powers as enough to get him by. Vegeta was unable to move his legs and probably had a crushed spine. Bulma had dropped him off at Capsule Corp to be treated there, knowing that even while crippled, the prince's volatile temper would not mesh very well in an enclosed building crammed full of sick and injured people. Goku had been rapidly wheeled off to emergency surgery upon arrival to the hospital, his body covered in horrific wounds. And then there was the last of the battered warriors: A young, mysterious Saiyan that Bulma had never seen before.

The conscious members of their congregation had averred that this teenager had been a Super Saiyan before he'd been struck down by King Cold's calculated, cruel attack. She'd been doubtful of their claims at first, but then she'd noticed that the young man had a tail—just like the one that Goku had when he was younger. Her curiosity was peaked, but so was her confusion. Where had the unidentified teenager come from? None of them had even the slightest hunch of the boy's name or his point of origin.

Whoever he was, he had been the closest to death when she'd found him, face down in a still-warm puddle purple Arcosian blood. A ragged hole had been punched through his chest, his body had been cold to the touch, and his pulse had been so weak that she had struggled to find it. Bulma hadn't thought he'd survive the flight to the hospital, but astoundingly, the young man stubbornly resisted death's greedy clutches. He too had been rushed away for emergency surgery, and the heiress only hoped that he would live through it so she could thank him.

He probably saved us all, she mused despondently, and we don't even know who he is.

As Bulma sat in the rigid plastic chair, feeling the cooling, late afternoon air waft into the stark white room, she clutched a ragged piece of fabric in her fists. At one time, it had been blue, but it had since been stained dark with blood. The mysterious young man had been wearing it. In their haste to treat the anonymous teenager, the emergency technicians had cut off his jacket, and they'd given it to Bulma—which confused the heiress immensely, until she noticed the logo sewn embroidered into the sleeve.

The Capsule Corp logo…she thought, tracing over the logo's edges with her fingertip. But I don't remember anything like this going into production. Where'd he get this?

There was the sound of tapping feet and a quick whirl of air as a lone nurse whizzed past without a word. Bulma clutched the torn jacket and turned her head in the direction from which she had come, wondering what would become of the young Saiyan that owned the item. It was possible he wouldn't survive to wear it again, or to answer any one of her myriad of questions about him. The heiress's brow crinkled in worry, and she felt a lump beginning form in the back of her throat. Her eyes glided down to the bloodstained, shredded jacket in her hands and she watched as her knuckles turned bone-white.

I don't even know his name, she thought sadly, as she stared. There must be some kind of clue.

Bulma gently fingered the shredded piece of clothing curiously, ignoring the places where the still-warm blood seeped into the palms of her hands. She felt something hard and square hidden somewhere in the folds of the jacket. Her curiosity sparked, and she turned the fabric over, probed with her fingertips, and finally found the concealed object. It was a small, white tin she instantly recognized as portable capsule storage. She popped it open, noting that it only had a few capsules in it—two she recognized the serial numbers from, and one that had no serial number at all. She blinked bewilderedly at it, wondering if it had been a pirated prototype of some kind that she didn't know about. Whatever it contained, the capsule was a bit dented and the mechanism inside would probably need repair. Bulma gingerly picked it up to examine it further. A draft suddenly swept up from the chilled floor, slipping through the sleeves and neckline of the scrubs the heiress wore. She felt the resulting goose bumps prick the skin up and down her arms.

She didn't know how long she sat like that, staring at the damaged capsule, as if looking at it long enough might give her some answers. Instead, she was left chilled and even more confused about the young man's identity.

Her bewildered mind wandered, desultory and dazed. Finally, Bulma placed the mystery capsule back in it's case, vowing to solve its mystery later. For now, she shifted her thoughts to Goku, who probably had just spent the better part of the last hour on an operating table. Bulma sighed miserably, but tried to look on the bright side of things as her thoughts continued to meander. At least she would be able to take solace in the fact that the Earth was safe, and that the most of the others were going to be fine. Gashes, scrapes, burns and broken bones would heal. However, Goku's condition was much worse off than that of his friends. There was no way that Bulma or the Saiyan warrior's doctors could know if he'd be all right after this.

The heiress ran her hands through her hair and rubbed her temples, trying to calm the storm of anxious thoughts swirling inside her head. Goku had been through terrible battles before and astonishingly had emerged unscathed and in high spirits. But somehow, this time felt like it would be different than the past, and Bulma couldn't find an explanation why she felt that way.

She only hoped there was something she could do to solve the mystery behind Goku's months-long disappearance and his sudden reemergence on Earth. She only wished she could understand where the mysterious new Saiyan had come from, and why he had so suddenly appeared. She only prayed there was something she could do to help her friends recover from such a horrid battle that it left them nearly in pieces.

But it seemed all Bulma could do was sit and wait for daylight. Maybe then, things would seem just a little bit clearer.


PICCOLO

From his perch high in the yawning boughs of an evergreen, Piccolo observed the fragile day surrender to the gravity of night. The sun sunk like a doomed ship in the dusky sky, and the Namekian warrior's characteristic grimace creased his face deeper than usual. Soon, the only illumination in the darkness would be the sterile, white-washed light shining from the hospital windows. Somewhere inside that tall, square building crawling with overworked men and women in lab coats, several of his friends lay grievously injured—and some were fighting for their lives.

They weren't the only ones, Piccolo thought to himself as he unconsciously attempted to cross his arms before remembering how painful it was to move them even a fraction of an inch. He glanced down at his injuries, frowning again. The smell of seared flesh was still fresh, but as he glanced down at the blackened, charred skin he saw the fresh, translucent sheen of new cells forming over the wounds. It wouldn't be more than an hour and he'd be completely healed. The Namekian warrior continued to scowl, but turned his face back towards the hospital building. His recovery would have been even faster, if he'd not used up the majority of his energy in the battle.

Piccolo hung his arms limply again, feeling a flare of anger bloom in his chest. Not only was he wearing the evidence of his failures as a warrior, but if he just hopped the short distance from the tree he currently occupied into the building, he'd find even more damning proof of his failure to protect those he swore he'd keep safe. Everyone had suffered horribly at the hands of the Arcosian tyrant, but Piccolo's thoughts mused on only a few: Gohan was half-broken and bloodied, but alive. However, Goku was nearly dead and there was a very real chance that he might not recover.

The Namekian glanced again at the walls of windows and concrete in front of him. Inside each pane of glass was another human fighting some disease or ailment that threatened to cruelly steal their precious, short life away. Once there was a time where he would not have felt even a twinge of compassion for the sickly creatures or their healthy counterparts, but now he felt a stinging prick of pity. Years ago, defeating Goku was his only obsession—his only purpose. However, he'd been taught through a series of rather unexpected circumstances and strange events that he did indeed possess the ability to care about others. Compassion for those less fortunate than himself was something Goku and Gohan had taught him. Piccolo felt the heat in his chest subside, and he looked down at his healing arms again. He was at least thankful that he was able to heal himself, and he sympathized with those who could not do the same. The grateful feeling slowly began to replace the anger within him, and he moved closer to the building.

A nimble leap was all he needed to reach one of the window panes. He glanced inside and saw sleeping, still figures swathed in sterile white bed sheets, but he did not recognize the faces. The Namekian pushed his body away from the window, unwilling to risk being spotted by a stray doctor or nurse, and used the remainder of his energy to float alongside the hospital building. He reached out with his senses and attempted to sense the weakened energies of any of his friends.

A few minutes passed, and Piccolo hovered in the air like a suspended statue—the only movement came from the flapping of his tattered clothes. Finally, he felt the faintest flicker of energy that he recognized. However, it was alarmingly close to disappearing.

Goku.

Piccolo snapped his eyes open and sailed upwards and to the left towards a window closest to where he'd sensed his friend's floundering life force. He hovered close, gazed through the window, and saw the familiar figure wrapped in sheets and bandages. The Namekian struggled not to gasp when he saw the myriad of tubes and machines that were hooked up to the battered Saiyan's body. In fact, in the darkening light, the only source of illumination was the many blinking signals and readings from the contraptions. They gave the room an eerie, lifeless glow.

Cautiously, the Namekian warrior reached forward and slid his long, white nails underneath the window pane. He gently pulled up, and gained access to the room. When he stepped in, he was immediately greeted by an unsavory combination of scents: The sharp smell of disinfectants, the metallic scent of blood, and the unmistakable reek of death were all around him. Despite his disgust, he strode forward, the wind from the open window tracing chilled fingers down his back. He looked down at the man he had once thought of as his most hated enemy with sympathy.

Goku's entire body was a mess of bandages, bruises, broken bones, and bloodied wounds. A breathing tube was taped in his mouth, and the only sound in the room was a mechanical hiss as the machine it was attached to forced air into the Saiyan's battered lungs. Both of the once-mighty warrior's eyes were swollen and purple; the ring around his neck was an even deeper hue of violet. As Piccolo surveyed his friend's many injuries, a flash of memory sparked inside his skull. He remembered the massive surge of power that had overtaken Goku on Namek; he recalled how raw and violent that energy had seemed. Now all that remained of that once-staggering life force was fluttering weakly inside Goku's chest like a dying butterfly.

Frowning as he surveyed his friend, Piccolo wondered why the Saiyan warrior hadn't released the terrible power that had come to the surface on Namek. However dark and disturbing the energy felt, it was clear to Piccolo that it was the key to defeating Frieza, and it might have been enough to destroy his father too.

So why hadn't Goku transformed into a Super Saiyan?

On Namek, even when facing insurmountable odds against Frieza, Goku's demeanor had been calm and resolute; it had been the opposite today on the battlefield. Even the Saiyan warrior's normally concentrated energy signature had seemed unfocused—as if Goku had been constantly distracted by something else during his entire conflict with King Cold. When Piccolo had finally arrived onto the battlefield in pursuit of a frantic Gohan, he saw that Goku looked more terrified than anything else to see the both of them appear there. There was no trace of the self-assured, determined man any longer. Why?

Piccolo sighed to himself and glanced back out of the window towards rustling trees and horizon. The stars were just beginning to poke holes in the blanketing darkness that hung in the skies above. Somewhere out there was the answer to the Namekian's questions, the explanation for his friend's long absence, and the reason for his sudden, unexpected arrival back on Earth. However, one thing was already evident to Piccolo, and it was the truth he most desperately didn't want to accept.

Goku may not have transformed today, but he had changed.

Some part of Piccolo believed that Goku's condition was his own fault. He had failed to defeat Frieza on Namek, despite having joined bodies with Nail. Similarly, he had been unable to intervene in time or with enough strength to help his friend escape the clutches of Frieza's equally evil father.

The Namekian warrior clenched his fanged teeth as his frustration grew like a torrential ball of fire inside him. He was weary of failure. He was tired of waiting on the sidelines, only for the person forced to take his place on the battlefield to end up hurt or dead. He was sick of feeling powerless as the odds seemed to stack endlessly against him.

It's time, Piccolo finally thought, a decision taking hold within his conscience.

He looked one last time at Goku. The Saiyan's skin looked sallow and pale in the sickly light of the room. Very gently, the Namekian placed the still-healing palm of his hand on his friend's arm.

"Goodbye Goku," he murmured softly. "Maybe next time you see me, I'll be different."

He lingered a moment longer, the cool breeze drifting in again from the window past his form. It seemed to bring a breath of life—however short—into the room. Piccolo inhaled the fresh air gratefully. Then he turned away, lithely hopped onto the windowpane, and plunged headlong into the murky face of night.


VEGETA

The prince of Saiyans lay in a darkened room, staring up at the blank ceiling, a broken, bloodied ghost of himself. There was a mattress beneath him, but only half of him could feel its cushioned springs pressed up against him or the wrinkles forming in the sheets. Everything below his waist was numb. His spine was crushed, and after having to be dragged in here by the Briefs after their insufferable daughter had rescued him, so was his pride.

The prince of all Saiyans, rescued from the battlefield by a clueless woman, he lamented shamefully.

Vegeta wished he could numb his mind and prevent the deep, stinging humiliation from sinking in further. But he couldn't. The only thing he could do was scream, swear, and swat his arms enough at the fretful housewife and the bumbling scientist to force them to leave him here alone, which they had, but not before trying to force some of their human medicine down his throat. Of course, the Saiyan prince refused to take any such thing, even if it was only to dull the steady stream of pain that was streaking from his severed nerves up his neck and into his brain. He was a Saiyan prince, and he wouldn't be coddled like a child.

The prince was unsure how long he stared at the ceiling of the room, but he was aware of the remaining light that filtered through the window diminishing as the sun set and night blanketed the land. Vegeta's mind skipped wildly, replaying the bizarre and terrible events of that day: King Cold's arrival. A mysterious new Saiyan. Kakarot's return—and his unexpected defeat. King Cold's bloody death. The pain grew steadily worse as his endorphins depleted. Every laboring breath, every twitch of muscle, triggered another reddened wave of agony.

He deserved every excruciating second of it. It was his punishment for being careless, for being weak, and for being a disgrace to his name and title—yet again.

Vegeta felt his fingers bite deeply into the mattress under him as more pain rolled through his body. He wondered how long he would be incapacitated like this, before the human fools found a solution to his problem. There had to be some kind of rejuvenation chamber on this planet—or one of those beans Kakarot had given him on Planet Namek. They didn't expect him to stay like this forever, did they? He had to get back to training, so that he would finally become stronger than Kakarot and claim his place as the Saiyan of legend. This failure had been the final straw for the prince—he could not allow himself to fall victim to another set of circumstances like these ever again. He'd rather die.

It was another hour or so that the Saiyan prince stared at the ceiling in contemplation of his future, shuddering each time the pain coursed through him. Finally, sometime deep in the folds of the night, he felt his agony subside slightly, and his eyelids grew heavy with fatigue. He no longer had the energy to resist the seductive lull of unconsciousness. Feeling both relieved and reluctant, Vegeta sank into a deepening abyss, still cursing the events of this day, his persistent failure, and every person who doubted him.

He resolved—for what seemed like the millionth time—that one day his luck would change.


GOHAN

In the hollow corridors of the hospital, late at night, even the softest sound seemed to amplify into a haunting echo. Son Gohan sprawled out on top of the crisp white sheets in the pediatric unit, contemplative and unable to sleep. His left ankle and arm throbbed; each had been slammed against the rocky ground with enough force to fracture them by King Cold's final assault. The doctors had cooed and spoken to him with soft, soothing voices as they set his broken limbs, asking him his name, who his parents were, and how he'd been hurt.

He hadn't spoken a word since he arrived here.

The hospital staff, after treating his wounds and finally accepting the fact that the young boy wouldn't confess anything, had carted him off to a room with another pair of children with similar injuries. A girl his own age had smiled kindly at Gohan and showed him her own pink cast. The younger boy in the room had been quieter, his wild, wide eyes darting between the other children and the door, as if he was preparing to run. He only spoke in short sentences, and only when the girl insisted he answer her questions. For his part, Gohan remained silent, rebuffing any attempt at conversation. His mind was too steeped in worry to make small talk with the others; his burden was so much heavier than children his own age could imagine. Now the other two were asleep, and the young Saiyan felt the ache in his injured limbs slowly travel through him and take root inside his heart.

Goku-his father-had finally returned, but instead of the joyous reunion Gohan had imagined, the arrival of the good-hearted warrior had been anything but. He couldn't drive the image of his father's expression from his head: Wild-eyed, teeth-clenching terror had struck the Saiyan the moment he laid eyes on his son. But his fear was understandable. It was the total, irrefutable lack of hope evident in Goku's face that disturbed Gohan the most.

He'd never seen his father like that before.

Maybe he never intended for me to see, the young half-Saiyan thought. Maybe that's why he never came back until now.

Gohan was still young, but thanks to his mother's obsession with his education the last ten months, he understood enough about psychology and himself to know that the unshakable pillar of strength he'd built his father up to be might be crumbling. He was growing up, and his own naivety was wearing off steadily, just as it was supposed to be. Now Goku seemed less like the shining example of fortitude and more like a normal person. According to all of his textbooks, this shedding of idolatry was to be expected in young boys his age, as they gained their own identities.

But it still didn't feel right. Seeing Goku look so hopeless had struck similar feelings within the young warrior, which amplified his fear that nothing would ever be the same between father and son.

The half-Saiyan boy shifted uncomfortably, stretching his finders underneath the cast on his arm to reach a troublesome itch. The itch didn't seem to go away; it seemed to inflame and sink deeply into his core, like his pain. He craned his neck to glance out the open door into the dimly lit hallway. The smallest echo of a crying infant resonated off the sterile, white walls. Then silence suddenly permeated the ward. Gohan tried to close his eyes and will himself to sleep, but it was pointless. His mind was too hard at work trying to understand how his dream of this day had shattered so brilliantly.

Finally, Gohan couldn't stand trying to reassemble the pieces inside his brain any longer. He had to find his father. Maybe if he could just talk to him, perhaps he could find a remnant of the man he remembered and everything would return to the blissful way it had been before fate had cruelly intervened. Shakily, the young Saiyan sat up in bed, shifted his body, and set his uninjured foot on the floor. He gently set his cast down beside it, testing his weight and judging the pain it would take to walk. It would take a bit of determination, he decided, but he could get around.

Next, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, reaching out the tendrils of his mind in search of his father's distinct energy signature. He didn't feel it at first, which alarmed him considerably. He concentrated harder. Finally, just as he felt himself teetering on the verge of panic, Gohan zeroed in on the energy he was seeking. He opened his eyes with a gasp, and a tear slide down his cheek almost immediately.

His father's life force was so weak; it almost didn't exist at all. He had to hurry.

Somewhat clumsily, the young warrior took his first careful steps, wincing as the pain in his foot intensified. Biting back the agony, Gohan continued. He poked his head cautiously out the door, glancing down both sides of the corridor for any nurses who might try to stop him. He saw no one—unsurprising considering how late it was—and hobbled as quickly as he possibly could into the hall towards the source of his father's energy signature. With every painful step, the terrible fears that had taken root inside of him clenched the Saiyan youth's heart.

Gohan continued this way for what seemed like hours, awkwardly limping on his one good leg, pausing occasionally to conceal himself behind desks, in doorways, or behind spare gurneys when he sensed an adult nearby. Several night-shift nurses and doctors passed him, but failed to notice the small boy trying to blend in with the wallpaper. The hospital seemed understaffed, and the few employees working at this late hour seemed overly busy and unconcerned with looking for missing or runaway children. Finally, Gohan reached a wing labeled 'ICU'—Intensive Care Unit—and hobbled forward faster than before. He felt his father's life force flickering in and out of his perception, but growing closer with every agonized step. After a long while thrusting his head in and out of several open doors, he found what he was looking for.

The sight that greeted the young Saiyan, however, did little to alleviate his growing fears.

Although he could recognize Goku's faint energy and his distinctive hairstyle, nothing else about the man lying swathed in hospital sheets resembled the father he remembered. He was the very embodiment of pain and suffering—purple bruises covered his skin, bandages that were beginning to seep through with blood were wrapped hastily around the multiple wounds the warrior had suffered. His face was gaunt and pale. A tube had been inserted into his throat and appeared to be the only thing keeping Goku alive. Gohan stared, utterly heartbroken, watching his father's chest rise and fall in a mechanical rhythm, caught tragically between the every breath.

He stared for so long he forgot completely that he was supposed to be quiet—to avoid detection—until he realized he was bawling uncontrollably. The sounds of his unrestrained sobs didn't go unnoticed, and before long Gohan sensed another presence hurriedly enter the room behind him.

"Hey kid, you're not supposed to be here," a stern-voiced nurse began, but when he turned and she saw the young boy's face streaked with tears, her hard expression softened with sympathy. She quickly knelt beside him.

"Hey, what's your name? Are you lost?" she asked, attempting a friendly smile.

Gohan could only find the strength to shake his head adamantly as the nurse gently placed her hands on both of his shoulders. He couldn't help it—stranger or not, she was a warm, welcoming body in this cold and sterile environment. He fell into her soft embrace almost instantly, still sobbing, but somehow managing to strangle out a few words between his cries.

"I—Is he…g—going to be…all right?"

The nurse looked over the young warrior's crumpled form and towards the figure lying motionless in the hospital bed. She glanced back towards Gohan, questions in her eyes.

"You know him?" she asked softly. "What's your name?"

Finally, Gohan relented to give up his identity. "S—Son Gohan," he stuttered weakly. "My…my dad…is he…"

He couldn't manage to finish his sentence, but the nurse seemed to suddenly understand. "Your dad's in the best of care, Gohan," she reassured. "We'll take care of him, I promise. Does your mom know you and your dad are here?"

The young Saiyan suddenly stopped crying, his eyes growing wide with realization. He hadn't thought of his mother since he arrived at the hospital. It hadn't occurred to him yet that she would be worried sick that he'd run off and hadn't returned before dark. She'd probably gone insane with worry now. After a long moment of thought, he finally spoke again.

"I have to call her," he said, feeling a little bit like his voice was detached from his body, as if floating away on the air. "She'll be worried."

The nurse smiled again and nodded. "Then we'll do that. The phone's right over here."

She assisted in helping Gohan hobble over to a chair against the wall before striding over to the opposite wall where an outdated telephone sat on a lone table. She picked up the entire thing, dragged the cord across the room, and set it on the young boy's lap gently—but kept the receiver in her hand.

"Now why don't you dial your mom's number, and I'll talk to her, okay?" she proposed.

Gohan wiped away a handful of tears from his cheeks, still feeling hopelessly broken inside. Despite this, he attempted now to be strong and resist the urge to tumble into another fit of crying. Undoubtedly, his mother was hysterical already, and that was without knowing anything about Goku's return and subsequent injury. Gohan felt his heart sink even deeper into the inky blackness that had filled him. He'd heard his mother cry at night; he knew she missed her husband just as much as he missed his father. To hear that her spouse had finally come back to Earth, only to have that joy cut down by the news that he was gravely hurt…it would destroy her. Finally, the young Saiyan glanced back up at the nurse, who had been waiting patiently for him to relay the telephone number. He thrust out his small hand, a solemn, resolute determination in his eyes.

"I have to tell her," he said calmly. "She should hear about my dad from me."

The nurse hesitated, and Gohan didn't blame her. It was an unusual request for a child. "Are you sure?" she questioned uncertainly.

The young warrior nodded firmly.

A conflicted expression flickered on the woman's face for a moment, but she finally dipped her head in agreement and gently handed the receiver over to Gohan. He cradled it against his left ear with his cast while hesitantly dialing his home number. The drone of the dial tone was loud and penetrating. Every press of his finger on the dial seemed more difficult than the last. Every shrill ring on the other end of the line was agonizing.

Finally, after what seemed like an unbearable eternity, his mother's frantic voice answered. Gohan felt his voice floating away from his body again. He listened, but was unable to feel anything: Not the cold draft of the open window, not the seat beneath him, not the receiver against his cheek. His former resolve unraveled instantly, and the room, the nurse, and everything surrounding him began to distort and disappear as his eyes swelled again with tears.

Gohan felt the entire world slip away as he spoke the words he knew would destroy his mother's hopes and heart.

"Mom, it's me…"

.

.

.

"…I'm fine, but I have to tell you something…"

.

.

.

"…it's…it's about Dad. He…he came back…"

.

.

.

"…but…but Mom…yes, he's here, but…you've got to listen..."

.

.

.

"...I'm sorry, I tried to help him…"

.

.

.

"…no, Mom..."

.

.

.

"...he's not all right."

.

.

.


Additional Author's Notes: Bring on the angst! I hope I made everything sufficiently sad enough. I apologize for any depression I may have caused...please feed my muse and leave a review!