Chapter One

He swallowed.

So the time had finally come, the moment he had been waiting for. But now what? He had been hoping every day of the past five years that that would be the day on which he would choose to return. But now that he was here, it would be only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. Before he left again. But maybe this time would be different, maybe this time he was here for good. Finally home where he should've been for all those years.

Maybe. It was always maybe.

Perhaps it might've been better, no - not better, easier if he'd had Vegeta for a father instead. He never showed he cared, was seldom at home, and was always training, but at least he was constant. You could always rely on Vegeta to shy away from shows of affection. Unlike his own father. When he was at home, taking a rest from all the training that was always foremost on his agenda, he lavished attention on his mother and him. He was caring, compassionate, a face-full of smiles and a belly-full of laughter - the best kind of father any kid could've asked for. But the strong hand that brushed through his hair and flicked the tip of his nose made those times when he was gone so much harder to bear.

And here he was, home again. He had looked towards this day with a childlike excitement and anticipation. He felt the fringes of elation getting ready to soar within him, but even as the childish feeling rose to the fore, he felt the tugging of the much heavier, darker chains of adolescent confusion, holding back the excitement and the joy of seeing his father again.

/He left you./ a hidden, shadowed part of himself spoke. The part he had always tried to keep buried away, the part that wouldn't allow him rest at night from its dark, suffocating murmurs. /He left you just when you began to feel like a family again./

He lifted a hand to shield his eyes from the bright light of the sun as he rounded an
outbuilding in the Capsule Corporation grounds and met its fiery countenance head-on. A soft breeze blew past his ear, running its ghostly fingers through his short, spiky hair and whispering its secrets to him. Voices were carried in its arms, familiar timbres engaged in
snippets of excited conversation. And in their midst, the most familiar voice of all. Closing his
eyes he could picture his fathers face as he spoke. The animated way his features would shift to fit the tone of his words perfectly, the way his lips would move to mould the sounds and push upwards at the edges in the frivolous energetic smile. They snapped open a few seconds later when he heard the laughter, the painfully familiar laugh. His stomach churned, his ears rung, and his legs threatened to turn to rubber as he rounded another building, blindly following the voices.

His hand fell. He froze. Although he knew what to expect, he was still unprepared for the solid, muscle-bound reality of it all.

Orange gi, blue sash and weighted vest, pale skin and dark hair. He was unprepared for it all. He felt his heart had stopped beating. Everything fell silent. He saw the lips of Krillin and Yamcha move, saw the slap that Tien landed on his fathers shoulder, watched as six year-old Trunks pointed at the large, powerful Saiyan and asked his mother something, and observed a quick exchange of words between Vegeta and Bulma. But he heard none of it. His ears either didn't want to believe what they were hearing, or couldn't. Time slowed. As if in a dream his father turned slightly, his head lifting and slanting to fix his large, dark eyes on him, in slow motion he saw the smile on his fathers lips widen, broadening to fill his whole face. He swallowed convulsively.

It all crashed down on him in a thunderous crescendo.

/He's home!/ an exuberant voice in his mind made to shout, but before the small pinpoint of light could even begin to explode, it was smothered by the darkness that was his inner-most fears.

/What's the point?/ he asked himself. /He's just going to leave again. He doesn't care
- he never has. You are nothing more to him than a friend./

A cold stone settled in the pit of his stomach. Was it true? Did his father really not
care? A real father would have been there for him in the years that he wasn't. But he was - when he was home he cared - he had to of! Except... He'd made him fight Cell...


/Face it, Gohan./ The voice said coldly. /He's always been more of a friend to you rather
than a father. You've never wanted to fight. But he never cared, did he? A friend, Gohan. He's a friend. Maybe not even that - he treats everyone the same./

The ice seeped into him. /More than a friend, more than a friend, more than a friend./ he repeated to himself. But he knew, he knew somewhere within himself that it was true.

Goku saw him as more of a friend than a son.

A sudden detachment threw him from his raging emotions.

He watched numbly as Goku approached, smiling, and stopped just a few feet before him, leaving the remaining three feet for him to cross at his will. Always the fighter, even when greeting his family. The urge to leap into the bulky arms and cry uncontrollably rose up but it was immediately smothered.

"Gohan!" his grin broadened. "How are you?"

He forced a smile, his cheeks feeling like unyielding steel.

"Fine. I'm okay. I'm doing good." Was that his voice? It sounded so cold...

Goku wasn't the only one to pick up on the detachment in his voice and the tension underlying his features. The others moved closer to witness the curiously different conversation between the father and his first-born.

Goku took another step forward. "Son, are you all right? What's wrong?"

He forced his smile to widen. "Nothing. Nothing's wrong. It's great to have you back, Goku. It's been a long time."

The silence became even more still.

Goku blinked, his jaw slackening. "Uhhh, Gohan?"

He felt his smile fall, and he found himself suddenly not quite as detached as he thought he was. A wailing cry shot through his mind.

/Oh, Kami-sama! This is your father you just called by his first name!/ He shouted silently. His dark eyes widened. He saw Piccolo step forward from under a tree and stare at him confusedly. His face paled. /My dad! This is my DAD!/

He took a step back.

Thoughts ran rampant through his mind. All he made sense of was that he had to get out of there. He couldn't stay... he had to get out. Too close... Everybody was just too damn close...

"Gomen." he apologized, hesitating a moment before spinning around and flaring his ki.

"Gohan!" he heard his father call before he shot into the sky.

/What have I done, what have I done, what have I done?/ He drilled himself. He closed his watering eyes tightly but the tears still leaked down the side of his face to be ripped away by the wind.

Orange suddenly flashed in front of him, and he quickly darted to the side to avoid his father. He powered up, increasing his speed. But he knew it would do no good - his father was way stronger and would be able to find him anywhere with that shunkanido technique of his. More tears leaked down his face when he considered that his father had never had the time to teach it to him, before he had died.

The orange flashed again in the corner of his eye and he veered sharply off in the opposite direction. Suddenly, he felt his ankle grabbed, and, not stopping to think, he spun around and backhanded his assailant across the face.

Goku stared at him in silence, his dark eyes wide with shock. The hand gripping his ankle let go and slowly moved to his cheek where he touched the skin with his fingers.

Gohan felt his heart stop mid-beat. His eyes widened with the realization of what he'd just done. He waited, angry tears burning in his eyes, for his father to speak.

Something flashed within those dark eyes, and Goku's hand dropped to his side. He stared into Gohan's face for a long minute, as if searching for something, and when he didn't find it his eyes dropped and he turned away. He was gone before Gohan could even blink.

"D... Dad?"

With a small groan of horror, he spun and fled.

Even with the aid of the wind in his eyes, tearing them, he couldn't eradicate the image of his father's face when he realized suddenly that his eldest son didn't want him - that look in his eyes. Had he made a mistake? Did his father really care after-all?

With angry tears streaming down his face, blinding him, Gohan flew carelessly. Dangerously close to the ground, weaving erratically through the upper branches of trees and unknowingly heading towards a huge storm cloud that spanned along half of the horizon. Within minutes he was engulfed within the spinning, swirling mass of thick, gray clouds and battering winds. But he didn't care. He hoped he'd get lost.

Lost would be good right now.



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