"What happened?" The familiar voice of Piccolo asked as Goku reappeared on the opposite side of the Capsule Corporation grounds from where he'd disappeared.
Goku jumped, momentarily surprised. He hadn't detected any ki in this area when he'd arrived, and how did Piccolo know where he'd go?
As if reading his thoughts, Piccolo continued.
"Sometimes I know you better than you know yourself, Son." He smiled slightly, but it creased into the customary frown when he noticed that Goku wasn't returning it.
/Whoa - this is big./ he thought to himself. /Goku's frowning. Gohan must finally have told him./
"What happened?" he asked again, although he believed he already knew the answer.
Goku swallowed at the concerned lilt in Piccolo's rough voice. He turned away, leaving his back to his once archenemy, his head bowed in shame.
"He doesn't want me." He said.
"What?" asked Piccolo, confused. This wasn't the answer he'd been expecting. He'd thought that the reason Goku was unhappy was because Gohan had told him he wasn't going to fight anymore. What could Gohan have possibly said to him to warrant Goku to feel like that? "What do you mean?"
"Gohan - he doesn't want me as his father. You heard him - he called me Goku!"
Piccolo swallowed. "Gohan wouldn't feel like that. I know him, he loves you."
Goku spun around, tears glistening in his dark eyes. "He hit me!" he half yelled.
Piccolo sat down on a rock and stared at Goku with dark, inquisitive eyes.
"Sit down." he ordered, and waited as Goku looked around for a place to sit, finally opting for a rock across from the one he was seated cross-legged on. He sighed. So the kid had finally made a stand, finally burst out of his shell. It had been a long time coming. He'd kept all his frustration at Goku in for far too long, and it wasn't good for him. Now, finally, he might be able to start to heal. He hoped. He sighed again, watching the Son fidget before him. How was he going to phrase this?
Goku stared silently at Piccolo, waiting for him to speak.
He sighed. "Son," he started, speaking with a softness Goku had only ever heard him use when talking to Gohan. "Although I'm always telling you this, I'll say it again in the friendliest way possible... You're an idiot."
Goku opened his mouth to reply, but Piccolo held up a green hand and cut him off.
"Gohan hit you because he's angry at himself, probably because of how he acted towards you. Now, I don't pretend to understand why it was that he called you by your first name, but I have a fair idea."
/Bullshit./ he thought to himself, keeping his ebony eyes fixed coolly upon the man in front of him. /I know exactly why. It just came as more of a surprise than it should have./ He watched Goku for a moment longer, then continued on.
"He's trying to distance himself from you. He's afraid."
Goku's eyes widened. "Afraid of what?"
/What you keep doing to him, you moron./
"That you'll leave again." he opted to say instead. "Think about it, Goku. Try to imagine how it must feel for him. We never had fathers that we can remember, so we have no idea of the feelings involved, but Gohan grew up with you. He _had_ a father. _Periodically_." The anger rose up in him. "Every few years you'd die on him. He'd have to cope with the fact that you were dead, and then a way would be found to wish you back again and his hopes would be raised. Then you'd die again, or leave - and not return for months. You've been gone five years this time, Son. Things aren't the same anymore. People aren't the same anymore."
Goku blanched. "I didn't think about it that way."
Piccolo sighed. "Of course you didn't." /You never do./
There was a long moment of silence before Piccolo spoke again. "You were the only reason Gohan ever fought, you know."
Goku looked up at him, confused. "I - I am?"
Piccolo nodded. "Think, Goku. Did Gohan ever show any interest in fighting before Radditz showed up?"
"Well, come to think of it, no."
"And why do you think he started to train?"
Goku's face creased in concentration. "To help with the fight against Vegeta and Nappa."
"No." Piccolo said sharply. "Because I made him."
Goku frowned at him.
"I felt the power in him, the purity and trust, and I exploited it." Piccolo could barely contain the anger that rose up inside of him.
Goku flinched back as the ebony eyes fixed themselves stonily on him.
"And you did the same thing."
The voice was hard, cold.
"You never realized, did you, Son? You never realized that the only reason Gohan ever fought was to be with you!"
"I did not exploit him!" Goku yelled suddenly. "I did what I thought I had to! Gohan wanted to fight, he wanted to help me. That's why he trained with me. I couldn't help it if I died!"
"You didn't care."
Goku froze, his mouth opening and closing as he struggled for words. "But, I-I-uhh..."
The large green Namek leaned forwards and on reflex, Goku leaned back.
"I saw what I was doing. I realized why Gohan was allowing himself to be trained by me. He ran away once, he could have hidden himself away, but he came back, and it was then that I finally understood the boy. He fought Vegeta and Nappa for you, to protect his mother, because you weren't there to do it. He's gentle - he doesn't like to fight. He's never going to like it! That's why I stopped making him. But you - you never realized. You caught a glimpse, though, didn't you Goku, when you forced him to fight against Cell? And I could still kill you for destroying him like that!" His anger thundered into his voice. "Did you know, Goku, that all that time he was begging for you to train him, he was crying out for attention?"
Piccolo suddenly sighed, the calmer side of himself that was Kami winning over his raging emotions. "Son, I am not surprised that the boy struck you. I am surprised that he didn't do much worse."
Goku sat, staring at his hands in shock. He felt numb as the collection of amassed memories crashed down around him. Realization dawned.
/He's right. I never did care. I didn't even think about it. I was too busy thinking too far ahead and I never even bothered to ask him what he wanted - I just assumed it was the same as me. Oh, Kai - what have I done? All these years.../
He looked up at Piccolo. "Am I a bad father?" He desperately needed to hear the negative, but he knew that Piccolo would only tell him the truth.
"Goku," Piccolo said coldly, standing abruptly. "You are no father."
Pain suddenly blinded him, his vision exploding with a red fog, and as his mind reeled, he realized that he was sitting on the ground. It dawned on him that Piccolo had hit him.
"And neither am I. I just hope that you'll be different with Goten." The blur of green said to him before disappearing.
And for the first time, Goku took a long, hard look at himself.
He didn't like what he saw.
"G-Goten?" He asked, question in his voice, touching no one's ears but his own. "But, who's Goten?"