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Papa Wolves

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The small Half-Saiyan was completely convinced that his teacher hated him. 

 

Oh, he'd always suspected it, with the way she would comment, off the cuff, about rich kids being spoiled and having no concept of reality. She always seemed to be stressed for money and unfortunately, that meant any child (or person for that matter) that happened to have more of it than her was subject to her little rants. It was more than just her targeting him for his money though. She just didn't like his personality. Trunks had no problem believing she would fail him if it wouldn't look suspicious. Today though, her vendetta against him was anything but subtle. 

 

He was convinced. She'd gradually been adjusting how often she called him out or put him on the spot and normally, he really could have cared less. He'd just spout off the right answer, she'd grind her teeth and the day would continue.

 

Today though, that was not an option. 

 

He couldn't think straight and keeping his eyes focused on her as she prattled on about mathematical equations (his ears had tuned out a long time ago) was requiring far too much energy. A small annoying miner had taken up refuge in his skull and was currently chipping away at his brain, right behind his eyes. Any sunlight or fast movement only seemed to encourage the little monster and his stomach was not helping matters. 

 

He couldn't remember ever feeling this kind of nausea before; Dad always said that Saiyans with stomach upset was a scary thing (okay, he had said a 'dangerous' thing) because of how much they depended on it. Heck, Dad had mentioned that a sick Saiyan was a true rarity and one that usually ended in death. That was a pleasant thought because as much as Trunks tried to deny it, logic eventually had pounded in that he was quite sick. 

 

Trunks had never skipped a meal before. Ever. This morning though, he had. He had felt like it was a necessity to keep going! He had never been so turned off by the smell of food. Now though, despite his stomach having created this issue, he felt drained and weak. Was that what Dad had meant? That Saiyans missing meals could be dangerous? That not being able to keep food down was dangerous? That illness added weakness and because of how their bodies worked, his was now going to kill him? His mind ached trying to sort through it and it took quite a bit of willpower not to panic. 

 

His one true consolation that this was not going to kill him, much as his father's stories and his body's current state told him otherwise, was that he knew Goten and Gohan had been sick at least once before and they were fine. Though, he did remember Gohan had said that being sick for a Saiyan or even a Half-Saiyan was a torturous experience.

 

He could certainly agree with that!

 

All he wanted to do was close his eyes and drift off.

 

After the third time Miss Shibia had emphasized that "you might want to pay attention, Mister Briefs," he opted to give in. Folding his arms, he buried his face into them and let himself drift. Sleep had never felt so good. It eased the pain in his head to an ache and stopped some of the churning in his belly. It was hardly comfortable but it was an improvement. He pondered if Goten was feeling this bad. 

 

He'd spied his friend on the way in and he'd looked worse than he felt and the kid had only managed "Big Brother Gohan is worse." ChiChi must have been distracted and Goku out training when they left because Trunks knew all too well that neither of the Sons would have let their kids go to school looking like that. 

 

Though, Goten said that he and Gohan didn't like to admit when they felt bad so maybe they were better at hiding it than he thought. It must have been something that they'd caught when they were all together last week. Otherwise, what were the chances of all three Half-Saiyans getting sick at once? If it was anything else, there woulda been reports of humans dropping dead because if it was enough to get a Half Saiyan sick, it was enough to kill a human.

 

Maybe venturing into that old abandoned temple hadn't been the best idea but heck, even Gohan had been interested! It was a given that if Gohan was okay with something, they likely would not get in trouble for it. Though, maybe some of that old dust, mold and who knew what else had been infected with something. It was sure beginning to look like it, from a rational standpoint. Gohan and Goten had seemed nervous by the end and they'd universally decided that this wasn't something they needed to tell their parents. If how he was feeling was any indication though...maybe that hadn't been such a good idea.

 

What if he had seen his parents that morning? Well, at least if he'd seen his mother, he was pretty sure he wouldn't be here but Mom had left early to go to some conference and Dad always vanished into the gravity room so there's been no one to question him this morning. Grandma was always a bit oblivious. He almost wished Mom had been there because then he could be in his bed at home—

 

A sharp pain in his neck made him jump up, cursing as the sudden movement had awakened the miner in his head. He hissed through his teeth, grabbed his temples and squeezed, willing the horrible pain and throbbing to cease. The pain in his neck dulled quickly. He would not have normally felt it if he had been more alert. Man, Dad would have hounded on him for that. Lettin' down his guard...

 

"So glad that you could rejoin us Mister Briefs." God, her voice was grating. "Perhaps you can summarize the equations we just discussed for the class." The ruler she slapped against her hand echoed like a cannon fire. He so wanted to just snag it and snap it in half. He could only imagine his mother's response to that. So, instead, he opted to lock eyes with her, as best he could with his throbbing head.

 

"You're the teacher, you do it." He snapped. "I'm not the one gettin' paid." He closed his eyes tightly. Yes, it was much better to have your eyes closed. 

 

"Mister Briefs," she spoke firmly, eyes narrowed and voice even more annoying if that were possible. "I have just about had enough of this attitude—"

 

"Help yourself, there's plenty more." Trunks snarled, eyes snapping open and it took most of his willpower NOT to let them burn green and give her a heart attack. Plus, he swore the room was swaying. Could this lady not take a hint? The desire to turn Super Saiyan if only to scare her was so  tempting but according to Gohan, if you didn't feel good, turning Super Saiyan would just make it worse. "I just wanna go home! I don't FEEL good, you crazy lady!" There, that explanation definitely made it NOT whining. He was the son of Vegeta and as such, he did not whine. Though, he really didn't know how thick this woman's head had to be to not see the obvious. 

 

Eye twitching, the teacher resisted the urge to yank him up by the arm. If she had thought she would have been able to get away with it, she would have. However, she could not afford to have the wrath of the mother of Capsule Corp charging down on her. Despite her emotions, she had to remain professional and despite how much this boy SO needed a good swat, she instead hardened her voice. "Well, you are not going to disrupt my class-"

 

"So call my mom!" Trunks hissed. Disrupt her class? She was doing all the disrupting! All he'd said was that he  didn't feel good! Well, okay, maybe he got a little snippy but she started it! He tried, once more, to get through to her thick skull. "Trust me, I don't want to be here either. I told ya I don't feel good!"

 

"I have a hard time believing that but this disrespect will not be tolerated." She pointed to the wall "Go take a seat,"

 

"Fine, long as I don't hafta hear you flap your gums anymore—" Trunks stood, dragged his way to the wall and sat down. Yes, it was quite obvious this woman hated him. Wasn't a teacher supposed to help when their kids didn't feel good instead of accusing them of lying? He was sure it was because he was rich. Or because he was Briefs. Or because he didn't take her stupid yapping. 

 

He doubted Goten or Gohan had this problem...

 

***

Biting her lower lip, Videl refused to relent. "You sure you're okay, Gohan?" Her tone betrayed worry even if she had to keep her voice to a whisper. Daughter of Mister Satan or not, their professor would not tolerate side talking. However, the young man had been off all morning. Heck, Sharpner had elbowed him in the ribs when he started to drift off. That in itself was worthy of a "what the hell?!" Gohan did not sleep during class. Ever. 

 

The Half Saiyan gave her what he hoped was a convincing smile. It wasn't. "Honest, I'm alright, Videl. Little tired, maybe." That was hardly it but it wouldn't do to have her or his friends worried too! There was nothing to be done over feeling ill except to power on through it. He could handle the nausea, even if it was so intense that he felt like he had to clench his throat muscles to keep everything down. He could handle the dizziness even if that just made the nausea worse and he was sure he walked like a drunkard. At least with all the crowds in the hallways, it was not easily noticed, what with everyone bustling back and forth. 

 

She folded her arms "No, you're not. Your accent is slipping." She'd learned after meeting the teen's family that both Mr and Mrs Son had a strong country accent though Mrs Son's was much more pronounced. Gohan had said both he and his brother had been trained to speak properly, in hopes of it getting them career advancement, but Videl had also learned if they were feeling out of sorts, very nervous or frightened or extremely relaxed, their natural speaking tone would bleed through. 

 

Right now, Gohan's "t"s were turning hard, his "g"s were dropping and his words were starting to merge. 

 

Normally, she loved to hear it(it was a surprising turn-on for her) but for Gohan to let that lapse at school...well, that never happened.

 

As for Gohan, he tried to refocus. If his accent was coming out, he needed to push more energy into paying attention. No point in slacking off. Re-focus! He coached himself. Mind on the moment! After all, he got teased enough just for his intelligence. He didn't need to add his country origin to a list of things that made him stick out and made everyone take note. Plus, he knew his mother wanted them to come across as educated and well-mannered and according to her, their mountain boy accent did the opposite. Normally, it didn't take this much strength to keep his natural tone at bay but right now...

 

It was hard though. So hard! 

 

Dad had gone out this morning to train before he had to do any farming and Mom had been doing wash after breakfast. As such, especially with them just now returning to school after Majin Buu (and heck, Goten starting at all!) it hardly seemed right to ask to stay home, even if his body was in agony. Goten, despite his young age, had agreed. One less thing for their parents to worry about! They were probably at fault for it anyway. Besides, they could handle a little headache or dizziness. Gohan had just had them both take Nimbus instead of flying that morning.

 

Being Half Saiyan, Gohan and his brother rarely got sick. Gohan remembered once when he was 3, once when he was 8 and once in the Time Chamber. Goten had gotten a fever as a baby and once when he was five. That was it. Vegeta has said that Saiyan immune systems were ludicrously efficient. It certainly seemed to be the case. 

 

On the downside though, when they did get sick, they got SICK. As it was, Gohan knew he could not stomach a thing and for a Saiyan, that was bad. He'd managed to shovel down a measly three portions this morning. Mom likely would have noticed as Goten was a mirror image but with how late everyone had been running—he and Goten had overslept almost an hour before ChiChi realized and woke them up—it hadn't been addressed readily and they'd run out the door before many inquiries could be made.

 

"Miss Videl, if we could have quiet, please!" 

 

The sharp tongue of his professor brought him back to the present quickly. Miss Hamilton while quite pleasant normally did have her pet peeves and side talking was one of them. The woman set her eyes on Gohan, "Mr. Son, if you could pick up where I stopped please." Much as she was fond of both Gohan, Videl, Erasa, she was also not one to play favorites. If they had enough time to gossip, they had enough time to participate. "Loud and clear, please."

 

Gohan froze. He abruptly realized he had been so distracted that he didn't even know what book they were using, let alone where they were! The faint flush started in his cheeks and the longer he was silent, the more the snickering around him grew and that just made his head throb more and his stomach twist like an ocean wave. "M-miss Hamilton, I'm sorry, I'm...not sure where we are."

 

Folding her arms, she responded "I thought as much. It would do you well to pay more..." she stopped, abruptly, eyed the boy a little more critically. "Gohan, are you alright?" She set her book down and advanced up the stairs towards the collection of teens. "I can see you sweating from down there."

 

“Fine," Gohan responded, though he was seriously considering admitting otherwise. It was taking all his energy just to keep his stomach at bay! "Honest, 'm fine." He definitely heard himself drop the "I" on his "I'm" and judging by the looks around him, everyone else noticed too! "'M sorry I was'sit payin' ‘tention Miss Hamilton."

 

Oh God...

 

Dead silence a long moment then it was a girl named Carsa that burst out laughing. It proved contagious and pretty soon, the entire room was full of guffaws. "Nerd-Boy's a hick!" One of them squeaked.

 

Oh God! Face burning red like a tomato, he covered his eyes. Little slips of his accent had happened before but that was full blown country boy coming out! This was the last thing he needed today. Slamming his head, though lightly (he could hardly afford to replace one) into his desk, he murmured under his breath, "I wanna go home..."

 

***

"You don't feel good, huh, Goten?"

 

The small half Saiyan turned from his lunch, which he had only been picking at to be frank, and addressed the young boy in his class, Nomino, who'd made the inquiry. He couldn't exactly say they were friends but he seemed nice enough. He'd shared his lunch with him the other day so that meant he was a great potential friend! You only shared food with people you cared about! 

 

"Not really," Goten admitted. "You want some of my lunch? 'M not gonna eat it but it'd be sad if I hadda throw it away." He pushed the containers over and Nomino accepted but said with innocent interest. Made sense. Goten never gave away his food, mainly because he always needed every speck. However, today, he just wasn't feeling it but it was a crime to throw away Mom’s food, according to Daddy. 

 

"You're talking funny, Goten. Kinda like farmers do on TV." Nomino took a bite of the rice dish Goten had. Man, Goten's mama could cook! Maybe it would be fun to go visit him some time. He'd never seen the countryside so it might be fun. His parents were always telling him to make friends so maybe Goten's family would be a fun place to visit!

 

Goten pouted "Well, Daddy IS a farmer. Mommy and Daddy talk like this all the time." He really didn't want to go into it. He was the son of country folk and so if he wasn't deliberately trying to be proper, he sounded like one. Nothin' wrong with that!

 

"I mean, you usually talk kinda proper" Nomino smirked "I like it better when you talk this way. You sound more fun." He dropped his smile when Goten lay his head down on the desk. "Why don't you ask Miss Shiyako If she'll call your mom or dad? They'd come pick you up if you don't feel good." Thinking a minute, he said "Or I betcha they'd call your brother out of school if they had to!"

 

Goten knew they would. He desperately wanted to ask. However, that would just mean MORE work for his parents. Daddy and Mommy always fussed (well, Big Brother said Daddy fussed; he'd not experienced it yet) like a mother hen when he or Gohan were sick. Daddy still had to handle the fields and Gohan was sick too and if they knew he was sick, they'd find out Gohan was sick so there'd be so much work lost and Mommy would get stressed and—

 

"I'll be okay," Goten forced a smile. His head screamed in protest but all he had to remember was that they had a long weekend coming up. He could rest then. Just remember that!

 

Nomino frowned. He didn't understand. Goten obviously didn't feel good. Why didn't he want his parents to come get him? Resting in your bed was a ton better than being at school! Plus, he would bet Mrs. Son could make awesome sick food!

 

While the young boy did not know Goten too well just yet, he was always nice (if a little slow on some projects which was irritating if they were in groups) and it hurt to watch him be in so much pain. He watched him try and maintain but the black haired boy looked so utterly miserable, he was getting sympathy pains!

 

"Just few mo' hours," Goten coached himself. "Just few mo..."

 

***

He would have normally ignored that horrifically bothersome ringing. After all, when he was in the Gravity Room, he liked to cast all other things out. While it was not as satisfying as a good spar with Kakarot or even any of the individuals that possessed Saiyan blood, it was better than nothing. That clown was tied to his field right now, in no small part, because of his wife's insistence. While Vegeta may have teased the other full blooded Saiyan about it, he also knew all too well the persuasion of the human female. It _was_ one reason they had both been drawn to such fiery wives.

 

Growling lightly, he paused in his routine and slammed his fist into the acceptance panel on the wall before going back to his punches. Of all the days for Bulma to be gone. He had other things to do than deal with phone calls. He would likely just have to tell them that his wife would return their call later. Couldn't an answering service or their damned secretary handle that?

 

"Excuse me, Mister Briefs?"

 

Growling, the Saiyan directed his attention to the viewscreen. It took him a minute to recognize that blasted woman that was in charge of educating his son. Truthfully, he always found her to be a bit of an idiot but it had pleased his woman so he didn't intervene. As it was, he never had to become involved. Until now, it seemed. What did this fat harpy want?

 

"What do you want?" He snapped, diverting his attention back to his training. "Are you not supposed to be educating my brat?"

 

"That is the reason I am calling, Mister Briefs," the woman went on.

 

"So, out with it." Vegeta interrupted. Why did everyone on this planet insist on batting around the bush instead of being blunt and direct. "What about my brat?"

 

Oh, there was a slight twang to her tone now, "I must insist you come and pick him up. He is being completely disrespectful and disruptive and I cannot continue teaching with him here."

 

Stopping slightly, Vegeta eyed her "You cannot handle an eight year old boy?"

 

"Your son is of...special caliber." She finally settled on. Oh, she had several things she would have liked to call him but not to his father. It was easy enough to see the resemblance, save the hair color.

 

"Well, of course he is," Vegeta allowed, with a small hint of pride "With his pedigree." Frustrated again at the interruption, he inquired "Can you not manage him until the end of the school day, woman? I have things to do."

 

Oh, she looked agitated now. "Mister Briefs--"

 

"Vegeta," he finally corrected her, though with her brain, he doubted she'd remember it.

 

"Mister Vegeta," she began again through clenched teeth "Since your wife is unavailable, I must insist you come and pick up Trunks. If you cannot, we will have to contact the authorities on abandonment..."

 

Oh, his eyes flashed at her and for a moment, the faint aqua lit up "Is that a threat?" Was this stupid female seriously saying they would remove his son? "Think carefully before you answer."

 

After an awkward silence, she replied "It is our policy, Mister Vegeta. Again, I insist you come remove your disruptive child."

 

Groaning and slamming his hand into the wall, he shut off the machine "If it will get you to leave me be, fine, woman. Tell the brat he best prepare himself. He'll know what that means."

 

"Very good," came the satisfied answer.

 

***

Trunks wanted to punch her out. He really did. Oh, it would have been SO easy too! Would almost be worth the backlash.

 

Oh, how smug she was when she trotted over and announced his father was coming. "I will insist on having a word with him about your behavior." She cooed in that fake-sweet tone.

 

"Good luck." He remarked. His father wouldn't even give her the time of day. It was a miracle that he'd agreed to come in the first place. Trunks would be lying to himself if he had said he wasn't nervous. His father would have been doing his morning training, which meant he had to leave the gravity room and "interact with these damned fools" so he would be angry.

 

Swell. Just what he needed right now. His father never got involved with his schooling so to force him into it was a horrible idea! He’s probably throw him in the gravity room for hours...if he didn’t physically punish him first.

 

Yeah, that had happened before and no, he did not care to revisit it.

 

All the same, he managed a light smile when he heard the door slam open, even if the sound made his head hurt more. The shocked yelp from the room was ridiculously satisfying. He heard his teacher rush over but he was in no hurry to open his eyes.

 

"Mister Vegeta.." Yep, her voice was quaking. Good! Let her be powerless for a bit. Bitch...

 

"Where's my brat?" came that familiar thundering tone.

 

***

 

Vegeta was fully ready to lay into his son right there but then as he took a step into the room, ignoring the other sniveling brats, his sharp nose caught it. The scent of elevated sweat production, the smell of lack of ATP in blood, the smell of heightened body temperature. His eyes swirled the room before settling on his son, laying against the wall. The boy's hair was plastered to his forehead, his face pale and his eyes closed.

 

"Trunks. Look at me, boy." There was no room for argument in that tone and this time, there was an urgency he’d never expressed before.

 

Gradually, the child opened his eyes and those bright blues were clouded and glassy. Child could probably see fine but there was no denying the misery in that gaze. 

 

It was an odd feeling that settled over Vegeta's heart. He remembered seeing Saiyan children his age with that look one day and then seeing their bodies tossed onto a fire less a week later when their immune systems proved far too insufficient to expel it. Contrary to popular belief, sickness was not considered weakness among Saiyans. It was considered dangerous.

 

The possibility of having to burn his only child passed his consciousness, though only briefly. No, it was an unacceptable outcome! They would work quickly and dispose of this molecular invader! It was from Earth so surely they could handle it! Time was of utmost importance!

 

His strides increased and he made his way to his child, ignoring the large woman's yapping and attempts to gain his attention. Trunks went to stand, as best he could with the room in a permanent tilt-a-whirl and the Saiyan Prince had to allow a half smirk at his determination.

 

When Vegeta grasped the swaying boy's arm, he pulled him up and continued pulling until he settled the boy in his arms, shifting to support his weight as minimal as it was.

 

Trunks' eyes went huge for a moment but he was still. Taking advantage of it, the Saiyan prince pressed his forehead against his son's, finding it to be blazing hot. "Foolish cub." He stated, ignoring that he had never referred to Trunks by the Saiyan term for child before. Maybe that had something to do with his son’s stunned expression. In any event, it just lasted a moment

 

Instead, he diverted his attention to the yelping female, still going on about something and interrupted "Are you as blind as you are stupid, woman?"

 

Gasps about the class but Trunks gave a small smile and lay his head on his father’s shoulder. Despite obviously having been training the skin felt cool on his face and there was something about his scent that soothed some of his aches. Plus, since when did his father carry him?! He was going to take full advantage!

 

“M-mister Vegeta—“ The teacher began but the Saiyan interrupted her.

 

“I can SMELL the illness on him!” Vegeta took a step closer to her. “I should have been informed immediately upon his arrival, you insolent cow!” He tightened his grip on his son subconsciously “Illness is NOT to be trifled with and you have cost us precious, potentially vital, time!” He spat, hitting her directly in the face “If you cannot tell illness from behavior, you have no business teaching my heir!” 

 

Turning on his heels, Vegeta scooped up his son’s backpack with his free hand, before heading for the door. Trunks glanced over his father’s shoulder at the stunned woman and lifted the middle finger on both his hands to her.

 

Scoffing, she mumbled to herself, as she took a tissue to clean her face. “He obviously takes after his father.”

 

Vegeta pauses just briefly, gave the woman a bird of his own and remarked “Damn right, he does.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Two: Alarm

Eyes narrowed and voice just as cutting, Videl reached across the way, clasped Gohan’s wrist and set him with a look that would wither most. It was a glare that would have made the Son family matriarch proud.

“Gohan, will you stop it and just ask the office to call your parents?”

The teen gave her a look of utter betrayal, as much as he could in any event, but his flushed face did not do much to make him look intimidating. Everyone in Gohan’s group of martial artists had told her that he could have a look that would shoot utter fear into your heart but so far, she had seen nothing from him beyond the look of a beaten puppy.

The glassiness to his eyes and redness to his skin just only succeeded to make him look less a martial artist that could bend steel just by looking at it and more water logged pup that had spent the last few weeks in the woods. All the same, he challenged her accusation with a rather whiney “I appreciate it, Videl but I’m—“

“Son Gohan, if you say ‘I’m fine’ I will punch you.”

“Just hurt y’er hand.” He answered simply. It was the truth too. Whether he wanted to or not, her human strength would cave on his half-Saiyan skin and muscles. The half stunned look to her face was almost worth it.

Almost.

“Gohan, you told me that your family honors truth, honesty above almost everything else.” Her tone was hard but not harsh. She just kept her eyes on his, searching them with that deep, unbreakable dedication that he had learned was part of her, “So, stop lying to me.”        

The teen considered an alternative, though just for a moment. He was rational, probably the most rational out of all his family, and he knew that if he persisted, Videl wouldn’t let up. As it was, he was only nibbling at the rice from his lunch, as Videl, Erasa and Sharpner gathered around him like he was made of glass.

He only had eyes for Videl though.

“It’s not that simple, Videl.”

Erasa chimed in, “What’s so complicated? You’re not eating, you’re red as an apple and if Sharpner has to wake you up again, it’s going to start costing you manga!”

The blond haired boy scoffed, “Should be making a tab now” but there was concern hidden in those eyes. While he had to admit that finding out about Gohan’s ability at the tournament had been weird, it had made him look past jealousy. Once that vision was gone, he had found that Gohan was actually quite a fun guy to be around. He still didn’t know a lot about him but the more he learned, the more he liked him.

Though, he was certain that any sport team would kill to have him as a member and Gohan refused, stating it was ‘unfair.’

This Gohan though, this looked nothing like the teen that Sharpner had grown accustomed to. Granted, he knew that Gohan could be timid and especially had a bad habit of being people-pleasing (especially with women he had noted) but there was always a sense of strength to him that Sharpner had never really been able to pinpoint.

Almost all of that was gone now and despite the obviousness of it, Gohan was proving to have a head the thickness of a metal ship.

Erasa leaned over, “C’mon Gohan, everyone gets sick.”

“I don’t.” He said simply. “Not like you guys do.”

Videl eyed him and while she didn’t ask it, she figured it had something to do with his half Saiyan side. So far, he had only told her a little bit of it and frankly, it irritated her how little she knew about it. She could see, she supposed, the reason for the secrecy but…

“But you still get sick some.” Videl countered his argument. “I know you do. You have to.” The softness of her voice betrayed the concern and Erasa raised her eyebrows in silent comment.

Videl ignored it.

“Not like you do.” Gohan said again.

Eyes contorted in frustration, Videl hissed lightly, “Look, being sick isn’t something to be ashamed of or—“

“Being sick isn’t something we can always afford, Videl.” Gohan finally told her, harshness to his voice. “Mom and Dad are preparing to do planting. Mom works on getting the seeds and everything and Dad readies the fields. My brother and I prepare irrigation and fertilizer and all that. If Goten and I are sick—“

“—Your brother is sick too?”

“—Then, we can’t help and we NEED that farming.”

The group went quiet again, save for Videl’s nails tapping on the table. She had that dark look in her eyes, that look that was an outward sign of her mind working overtime. Sure enough, right before the silence turned awkward, she reached over, plucked a small container from Gohan’s side of the table and cracked it open. The smell of ramen, egg, vegetables and more spices than one ever dreamed could properly work together wafted up, nearly making Sharpner drool on contact.

Slamming the dish down in front of the teen, Videl commanded. “This one dish. It’s small, barely a snack to you—I’ve seen how you eat—finish that and I’ll drop everything. We won’t say another word about it. If you don’t, I’ll call your parents myself.”

Eyes full of pressured alarm, Gohan demanded, “You can—“

“_I’m_ the one that gave your parents the cell phones, remember?” She folded her arms, quite pleased with herself, “You really think I don’t know the numbers I gave them? Besides, if this isn’t a big deal, like you say, this is an easy test, don’t you think?”

Sharpner intervened, almost salivating on the spot at the mere sight. “Dude, if you don’t eat that, I’m going to.”

The blond haired boy’s threat (and perhaps hope) went unanswered as Gohan and Videl looked one another down. It was like a scene out of an ancient western movie, of two rivals staring each other in the face right before a shoot off.

Ultimately though, faced with the logic and the utter silliness they must have been displaying to anyone paying attention, Gohan caved. He hated that he caved and he was still trying to figure out how he could be caving to a girl that only came up to his chest but that was the same mystery that surrounded his mother and father’s relationship so he assumed it would never be solved.

He felt bad though. Looking down at his mother’s hard work, his stomach twisted and screamed at the smell of it. He, as well as Goten, had inherited their father’s strong sense of smell (“nose like a dog” Krillin often said) and normally, that was a tremendous blessing. It made all food, literally all food, even better.

But now, the smell was almost enough to send him running.

Videl meant what she said though (she always did) so he took a breath through the nose to settle him as much as he could and lifted a bite. As always, his mother’s food always looked amazing and he tried to focus on that.

Not the smell, the look, focus. Focus. Focus.

Into the mouth, chew, swallow…

His stomach contorted, twisted and screamed.

Nope.

He was up, pushed away and slipping into his hyper speed before he could even think about it, knocking Erasa to the ground entirely and leaving a half dozen other students staring after him, his friends included with Videl being a notable exception.

Sharpner looked to Videl who gave him a dark glare, before jerking her head in the wild direction that Gohan had run. There were no words exchanged but there really didn’t need to be. That motion was easy enough to figure out. She was telling him to go after him.

Getting to his feet, Sharpner took off after Gohan, making a mental note to ask how he had managed to sprint fast enough that he didn’t even really know where he had gone, leaving Erasa and Videl together.

Erasa, after a brief moment, commented “Ho-how did he do that?”

“Training,” Videl’s answer was clipped as she reached into her phone and started to scan through her numbers. It took her a bit of doing but she finally selected one, labeled ‘Goku’ and hit send.

Erasa’s grin appeared quite suddenly and the depth of it was making Videl uncomfortable. As she waited for a response, she mouthed ‘what?’

“You have his parents in your phone and you two still aren’t an item?” Her smile said a thousand things without any words.

            “…I gave them their phones, that’s totally different.”

            “With his personal name?”

            “…drop it, Erasa.”

OOO

            The atmosphere of Mount Paouz was always fairly serene. The patch of land that ChiChi and Goku had set aside for farming land always had a particular feel to it. Goku both liked and disliked it. The small vegetable garden near the house was so much better than this large plot of land he had to manage for the larger crops.

            Leaning back against the tractor, he yawned widely.

            This wasn’t training and while he was glad that he could spend time outside instead of in an office or some business suit like most other ‘jobs,’ it simply wasn’t fun. He grew bored easily and the first time ChiChi saw him farming with his hands, she about had a fit.

            He didn’t know why. He got more done and it was a lot faster but she said something about it being ‘not proper.’

            Well, he did admit it tended to make him dirty but it was just earth. And there was that large lake nearby that he could clean up in without her being the wiser.

            Looking out over the land before him, he considered doing that again. After all, ChiChi had said that if they had the fields ready for planting early, he could take off to do some training before the boys came home.

            That sounded good to him!

            Grinning, sleeves rolled up, Goku gave himself a mental start and was off.

            The soil and rock against his fingers always felt good and the overturned earth he left behind was nearly flawless. Row after row, he went, churning through the yards and yards of field about three times as fast as that ol’ tractor could!

They could plant just about anything in here!

Stopping, standing up, dusting off his hands a bit, Goku surveyed the field when an odd tingling made his left leg vibrate. He blinked, looked around for an energy attack, an animal and then realized it was that phone.

Videl had gifted some to their whole family, upon which ChiChi had all but passed out, but Goku had never seen the appeal of the odd things. He could find his wife and kids without a phone call but ChiChi insisted that the schools and buyers of their crops needed something tangible. So, he just agreed and said he’d keep it on him.

First time he’d ever gotten a call though. Most people still used the house phone or called ChiChi.

Fumbling a little, he finally pulled it out and pressed that small green button before answering “Hey!”

“Mr. Son?”

Oh, he knew that voice! “Oh, hi Videl! I tol’ ya that you can call me Goku!”

“…right. Sorry….Goku, I think you need to come and get Gohan.”

All light flooded out of Goku’s face. “Gohan? Is something wrong?”

“I think he’s sick but he’s being stubborn as…well, he’s being stubborn.”

“What makes you think he’s sick?” Goku had stopped walking the field and leaned against the nearby boulder cliffs, one hand to the phone and one tapping so nervously on the stone that it was leaving indents.

“He’s all flushed in the face, he keeps falling asleep, his accent is out full force and he’s not eating.”

Goku’s heart froze, turned to ice in his chest. Both his children were strong, stronger than even he could believe at times but Saiyans and that included half-Saiyans lived by their stomachs. He couldn’t remember his boys ever refusing a meal.

“Not eatin’?”

“He just ran off, I think he’s throwing up. I sent Sharpner after—“

The phone went dead when Goku focused his ki and realized he could not sense his son’s. It was low. Too low to get a bead on.

Videl was the next best thing.

Fingers to the forehead and he was gone.

OOO

Erasa fell to the ground for a second time when the air by Videl suddenly pulsed and there was a tall man suddenly standing there. She gave a little shriek as she fell but Videl, while jumping a little, didn’t seem surprised at all. She just clicked her phone, put it in her pocket and stood.

“Erasa, relax, it’s Gohan’s dad.”

Said man, clothed in a dirty undershirt, black slacks and a simple white scarf around the neck, turned to the fallen girl and said, “Oh, hi! I’m Goku!” He took hold of her wrist between his finger and thumb and pulled her to her feet.

Videl let Erasa gather herself then said, “Sharpner went to get Gohan, he took off running when he tried to eat.”

“What was he eatin’?”

“Your wife’s ramen.”

“But her ramen’s amazing!” Goku announced, a slight hurtness to the tone. “Gohan always loves it!”

Videl nodded “We were drooling just smelling it. But Gohan couldn’t even take a bite of it before he was rushing off. Throwing up, I’d guess.”

Goku frowned, looked over the spread before him as Videl waved away the curious onlookers. “He hasn’t touched any of this?”

“Not more than a few nibbles at a time.” Erasa finally felt comfortable enough to answer. “He’s been acting weird all day and all flushed and frazzled.”

Eyeing the two girls, Goku inquired, “Where did Gohan head off to?”

Videl offered a direction. “Nearest boys’ rooms are that way. We can show you.”

Nodding, the Saiyan father fell in step behind the two girls, leaving an utterly baffled collection of students in their wake.

---

“Gohan, you sound horrible.”

“Thanks.” The gurgely sound from inside the stall had just a pinch of sarcasm. “Always one for compliments, aren’t you?” His voice caught in his throat and he cursed his stomach to stop its convulsing. “You don’t have to hang out in here you know…”

Leaning against the wall, arms folded across his chest, Sharpner remarked, “Hey, I’m not the one emptying my guts and saying there’s nothing wrong.”

Maybe it had gotten to the point where denying it was a bit pointless but Gohan couldn’t see another response. If he did admit he was sick, then that meant his parents had to put their farming aside and that meant money that they could not afford to lose.

“I’m fine…” There is was again, that utter denial against all form of logic. He had to cling to that. With all his strength, he had to cling to it. The same way he was digging his hands into the porcelain of the nearby toilet, he had to…

“Gohan!”

That tone was sharper than Sharpner ever recalled hearing, from anyone, and it certainly had a desired effect. He jumped to attention himself as the door swung open and a man looking like he stepped right off a farm walked in, eyes darting to and fro.

Gohan, for his credit, paused in his heaving and forced himself to stand. It couldn’t be—

“Gohan! Where are you?”

“D-dad?”

Slowly, he gathered his breath and pushed open the door to the stall, stumbling back into the main room, Sharpner moving to lend him a shoulder. Eyes rounded and more than a little glassy, Gohan looked more like a five year old than a nearly grown man at that moment. He blinked once, then twice, as if trying to convince himself that yes, that was truly his father standing there.

Videl had said she would…

“Dad.” He finally found his voice, trying to swallow the lingering bile and tried to stand upright though he suspected that he was still slightly hunched, bent and unsure. The look Goku had on his face was not one that they saw very often. “Wh..what are you doing here?”

“You didn’t tell me that you didn’t feel good, Gohan.” There was hurt in that tone and that was a thousand times worse than any lecturing or yelling he could have done. All the boys in the Son family had a wounded puppy dog look but only Goku had truly perfected it. “I thought you tol’ me that stuff.”

Wincing, and quite visibly, Gohan retorted, “Dad, I…Goten and I thought that we would be making things harder for you and Mom—“

“Goten too?”

Cursing at himself, Gohan tried again, “Well, we…I mean, yeah, we didn’t feel great but it’s okay, it’s okay. We have a long weekend and …”

It probably should have embarrassed him when Goku set a hand on his forehead, but Gohan couldn’t find himself with the energy to care. His father’s hand always had an odd texture to it—hard, rough and hard as stone during a spar but if you were hurting, it went soft and gentle.

That and compared to his skin, it was cool and felt oh-so-good.

“Gohan, you got a fire on your skin!” Here, Goku turned his voice hard, like that commanding tone when he’d first called his son’s name. “Don’t you lie to me about it either.”

No point now. Among his friends, it had been easy to continue lying to himself but now, with his father already here, well, he was a bit ashamed how easy it was to slip back into being a little boy. His father had that effect on people and especially since this was the first time since Goku had come back that he had been sick.

The realization slammed into Gohan like a ton of bricks and it almost took the air out of his lungs.

The past seven years, any injury was tended by him or his mother. Any illness, rare as they were, was something he had to handle on his own. He could not afford to want to the comfort, the reparation. Mom needed help, Goten needed the help. It was a luxury that he simply could not have.

Now, his father stand in front of him, fresh off the field, but just as alert as he had always been, was a sharp reminder that things did not have to be that way anymore.

He didn’t have to be the strong one anymore.

He didn’t have to be…

“…yeah, I don’t feel good.”

Pulling him into a tight embrace, Goku advised “See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Without waiting, he swung Gohan around, lifting him onto his back like he was only five years old. Gohan felt his face color, deeper than it had been with the fever but much like his hand, the skin of his father’s neck and the tickling strands of his hair on the face and neck simply felt too good to pass up.

He settled for hiding his face into the dark tresses and pretending that none of this was happening. Maybe sleep would force it away and he’d wake up at home. It was easy to pretend that way and he was grateful that SHarpner didn’t say anything, just opened the door for them as they headed outside into the main courtyard where Erasa and Videl were waiting.

“Thanks, Videl! I’ll take care of ‘em, don’t worry.”

Stumbling up, the dark haired girl advised, “Goku, you can’t just disappear with him.”

Genuine bafflement greeted her, “Why not? He’s my son. I can pull him outta school if I want to.”

“Yeah but you have to tell the office,” Erasa stood up. “Otherwise, they’ll worry where he went.”

“Oh.” Goku adjusted Gohan on his back and asked “Where do I do that?”

Videl moved to walk by his side, “Here, I’ll help.” She chanced a look at Gohan a moment, bit her lip and said, “We’ll make it quick.”

“…thank you, Videl.” Goku’s tone was genuine. There was a maturity in that simple statement that was impossible Videl to ignore and as much as Goku appeared the goofy, laid back parent that you only saw in books or movies, when she looked at him now, all that was gone. Gohan had told her that his father had many faces and that while the smiling, laughing one that she had met at the World Martial Arts’ Tournament was one, it was only one of the many facets his father possessed. She could see that, reflected in those dark eyes. There was only concern, deep devotion and a love that made Gohan’s behavior around the anniversary of the Cell Games completely justifiable.

When Gohan groaned lightly as they made their way to the office, Goku lifted one hand and rested it in his hair, whispered something up to his son that Videl could not catch and for a moment, leaned back and let his forehead touch Gohan’s.

So, this was the father Gohan had missed so much.

OOO

“Goten.”

Jerking about and cursing himself for it, the black haired boy addressed his teacher as politely as he could manage, “Yes, Ma’am?” Mom had always said that Ma’am was always acceptable and it usually made women happy and said he had good manners.

Kneeling down, the woman gently lay a hand on his head, “Goten, I really wish you had told me that you didn’t feel good.”

Blinking and muscles tensing, Goten accused “Wh-who told you that I didn’t feel good?”

“Your father and brother are here to get you.” She provided as answer, with a touch of bewilderment. “Took us all by surprise actually.”

“Daddy and Big Brother are here?”

“Right here, little buddy.” The voice that called into the room was both welcomed and not welcomed, all at once. What about helping Mom and Dad? What about what Gohan had said, about them needing to help with the planting and readiness and…

For a moment, Goten shifted his eyes to meet Gohan’s. They were utterly wiped but he gave a simple nod to his sibling.

Seeing his father standing there in the doorway, Gohan hung on his back like a sack and the warmth and concern peering out of the older man’s eyes, all Goten’s concerns fled away and he was suddenly rushing forward until his arms were around his father’s knees. “Daddy!”

Kneeling, shifting so that he only held Gohan with one arm, Goku scooped Goten up in his other, where the boy swiftly wrapped his arms around his father’s neck. As he had done with Gohan, he rested his skin on Goten’s.

“You too, little buddy?” Goku shook his head, “You two needa talk to me!” He laughed, a rumbling laugh but he felt none of it. When Gohan had been little, they had dealt with one sickness and then he had dealt with an illness in the time chamber but there was a reason that his boys with fever and no stomachs to speak of worried him.

Gohan had almost died both times he got ill. Goku had been ready to rush him out of the time chamber when the fever finally snapped. They had called in three doctors when Gohan had been little and Goku had completely stripped the countryside of any herbal remedies he knew of. It had worked but it had been a narrow victory.

Goten, as far as Goku knew, had never been ill.

And none of the illnesses that Gohan had ever had went and stripped his appetite. From the simple limpness of Goten’s grip and the quivering of his ki, he knew that he wasn’t eating. Once he’d learned about it from Videl about Gohan, it became easy to feel it.

“Not eating either, Goten?”

Head down a bit, Goten shook his head back and forth. “Don’t wanna.”

Same attitude that Gohan had. “Well, we’ll just have your mom make something easy, okay?”

“Nothing.” Goten said again. “Water. Nothin’ else.”

If they didn’t eat, they’d die. Goku knew that, plain as day. Vegeta had tol’ him a little about Saiyans once they reached a truce after Buu. Saiyans relied on food which was why they loved it so much. A human could survive maybe a month without food. A Saiyan was significantly less because of how much they needed for their muscles and fighting. Maybe his kids being half would help but…

Ignoring the dark icy fear that settled over his heart, Goku neglected to answer, tightened his grip on both his children, focused on his wife’s ki and was gone.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three: Symptomology

            Bulma ran.

            It was an odd sight to see from her. As flustered and angry as she could get, she usually maintained herself when she was in meetings or making deals with clients or participating in conferences. It simply came with the territory and while she had no problem telling off someone that was being sexist or ridiculous, she could hold her tongue on most other issues.

            Not on this.

            It had been sudden, a buzzing in her pocket and that in itself was a surprise because outside of her workers, next to no one called her, especially if they knew she was in a meeting. They’d felt her wrath enough times before to know when to stop pressing their luck.

            It hadn’t been a call though. It had been a text. Simple, straightforward.

            From Vegeta.

            No batting around the bush, as was his way and she counted herself lucky that he had not opted to simply barge into the meeting room and drag her out. That would not have been beyond his traits but the fact that he _didn’t_ was perhaps more alarming than if he had.

            It had said, plainly, Come Home, Bulma.

            Nothing else. Nothing else needed to be sent for her to announce right then that she had to go and she would follow up with them at a later date.

            Vegeta used her name.

            He never used her name. Not to her, not unless it was something vital, something important, something that could not be ignored. She had grown accustomed to his harshness and how somehow ‘woman’ had turned into affection.

            So, when he used her name, she knew something was wrong.

            Even now, as she plowed through Capsule Corp, aiming for the family quarters, her mind was racing a thousand miles a minute. She threw her purse down as soon as she entered the main living quarters and kicked her computer to the side.

            “Vegeta!”

            Almost as soon as she had let his name leave her lips, she was rushing down the corridors and she heard an odd sound. Well, odd in that she really wasn’t sure what it was at first. It was a distinctly familiar voice but beyond that, she didn’t know what to think of it.

            Slipping down and pausing just outside of her son’s room, she let the doors open and made her way inside. Had the scene she saw not bring a surge of panic into her heart, she would have melted.

            Trunks was home, lying on his stomach, half curled into a fetal position. Sheets kicked to the floor. In just his underwear. Sweat had all but taken over his face and that face was a lovely shade of bright red. Far redder than she ever recalled it being.

            Sitting right next to him was Vegeta, seemingly focused and with a hand on the boy’s head. She couldn’t remember him ever doing that. Even after the defeat of Buu, and with Vegeta’s declaration to be…well, better than he was before though he did not go into detail about what that meant, she was stunned dumb.

            He looked…worried.

            He never looked worried.

            No, not worried…no, this was…

            Vegeta was afraid.

            She didn’t know what to do.

Vegeta was never afraid. Ever. Angry, frustrated, disturbed but never afraid. He never told her a lot of his past but she knew he had been in the midst of a war since he was younger than Goten.

            He’d destroyed entire worlds, fought Freeza, Cell, Buu…

            Why was he afraid? What could prompt that from him?

            “Vegeta?” She stepped forward, headed for her son and fell to her knees next to the bed, resting a hand on her son’s head, amid that sweaty hair. After a pause, she realized that Vegeta while not talking to her was still talking to Trunks. Not in their language though.

Vegeta, despite his insistence on the importance of his heritage, rarely spoke in his native tongue. Bulma was a bit appreciative of it because she never understood him when he slipped into the Saiyan tongue but there were a few words that she had picked up and as she stopped, listened, she recognized it:

Insela” Vegeta was saying, over and over. “Insela, enka, insela.”

Insela was a command though whether it meant rest, heal or sleep, she had never been able to figure out. Enka was new. She had never heard that word before. Sitting and shifting to her knees, she lay a hand out to brush her son’s face.

Red hotness almost burned her hand and she demanded, “Vegeta, was he like this morning?!”

The Saiyan Prince finally shifted to look at her. “Not this bad, as near as I can tell, Woman. I didn’t see him this morning.”

Of course he didn’t, probably ran right into that gravity room and--“Wonderful. Well, no problem.”

“It _is_ a problem Bulma.”

There it was. He was using her name again and despite her willingness to normally tell him exactly what she thought, she went quiet at it. “Vegeta?”

“Tell me.” His voice was steady, even keel. “Has the boy ever been sick?”

Bulma bit down her first impulse to state if he had been around, he would have known (seemed pointless now) and she fought the urge to respond ‘of course’ because the question itself made her think. Of course, most of the time, she considered that a silly question because of course all kids got sick but as she stared at Trunks and considered the inquiry…

“There was…”

No, no, that had been her. She’d gotten the flu and it had been Trunks, young as he was, bringing her water, soups, with his wide eyes, curious at why she couldn’t get up and play. Yet, as close as he was, he never got it himself. Didn’t even seem to understand it.

No. She couldn’t recall. Not a cold, not the flu. Not even allergies, nothing.

“…no. No, he’s never been sick.”

“It’s his Saiyan genes.” Vegeta said simply, his eyes still not leaving the boy who was currently trembling under the touch of his father. Not from fear but simply from fever alone. “We are built for war, for strife. It would not do to crumble under every illness that came our way. Our bodies are well oiled machines that strike down every invasion like an army.”

Bulma nodded, silently. Her thoughts raced, thought, pondered. “That’s why it took the heart virus to take down Goku. It was new, it was—“

“Likely alien or made for him.” Vegeta remarked. “I refuse to believe that a virus capable of toppling a Saiyan was not hand-made for that purpose. Gero was conniving enough.”

Bulma didn’t remark. It was possible but it seemed a moot point. “I’ll call in our doctor.”

Vegeta eyed her. He didn’t much trust human doctors but he had no experience with medical care, aside from the necessary knowledge of how not to bleed out. Illness and sickness were utterly out of his realm.

“Which one do you intend to call, you humans have doctors for everything.” The quickness of his reply betrayed the worry that he tried oh-so-hard to cover with irritation and frustration. Bulma, as always, saw right through it.

“I think a basic care…” She stopped because that was a legitimately good question. A regular pediatrician was not who to call, even if they would be first on her list for a flu or the cold. This was not any of those things, that much was sure. Vegeta was right. None of those ailments had struck her son—their son—down before. It had to be something else, something deeper, worse.

Who DID you call for this kind of thing?

“Do you have doctors that are knowledgably competent on unknown illnesses or epidemics?” The Saiyan kept his voice even keel, as he had been struggling to do since he got the boy home.

“He isn’t eating, Bulma.”

He felt that there wasn’t much else he could say beyond that which could accurately express how lethal this was. How lethal it could be. He cursed his lack of knowledge of biological systems. He cursed the lack of Saiyan experienced physicians and he cursed whatever miniscule organism had put his heir in such a state.

His son.

Bulma half paused. Vegeta still wasn’t looking at her and in between their conversation, he would whisper again “Insela, enka” in such firm, fierce determination that it was nearly a chant. The blue haired women frowned in thought to his inquiry but it was not a bad thought. “Not official titles but there is the Unknown Disease Network. All over the globe, all kinds of doctors that study just about everything. Has about 500 doctors I think—“

            “We’ve the money; call them all.”

            A Saiyan that did not eat was a dead Saiyan.

OOOO

Pushing the door open with her foot, ChiChi slipped her way into the room. It was dark, the shades drawn and the two forms slumped on the futons barely stirred at her entrance. That in itself made her heart hurt. She had never known her two boys to refuse to arise immediately at the smell of food.

“Goten? Gohan?” She called out, approaching and setting the tray laden with mugs and bowls on the nearby nightstand. “It’s Mama. Can you wake up and eat some for me?” Maybe she should have been a bit more stern, more demanding as she could be whenever playing her role as nutritionist of the home (a role she shared in equal power with Goku) but as firm and unyielding as she could be, seeing her children sleeping with flushed faces and sweaty brows always made her hard face melt.

The steaming kuzuyu mugs were never exactly appetizing but she had taken precautions to add fish to the okayu in hopes of prompting some of their appetites. Her sons routinely loved her okayu and the rice porridge always went down a little easier with some fish to make the little flavor pop. Not much to be done to doctor up kuzuyu but a little hot tea with honey afterward could wash out most of the taste from the tongue.

Her boys barely stirred. She turned on one of the side lamps, not feeling like it would be appropriate to attack the overhead light. When Goku had told her about Gohan getting sick in the time chamber, he’d been quick to report that anything that jolted the senses seemed to drive home buckets of pain and if Goten was anything like his brother, she wanted to avoid that. “Gohan? Goten?”

A low moan finally answered her and the largest of the lumps half turned and opened one eye at her. He didn’t say anything for a moment, his sights just shifting around and she saw his nose twitching. The sharp Saiyan nose was something both her boys had inherited from their father and it was no secret that nothing escaped the Saiyan nose. He knew what she brought with her.

“No, thanks, Mom.”

Setting her eyes and her voice, ChiChi retorted, “None of that. You and Goten barely ate anything yesterday and bein’ sick means you need food! I know I don’t need to tell you about that, Gohan!”

Her eldest son closed his eyes, as if the act of talk had wiped him out entirely. “Mom, I know but…not yet.”

Wringing her hands a little on her apron, the Son family matriarch was not having any of this! “Son Gohan, I know your stomach doesn’t feel good. Your father is working on that but if you two are going to have ANY chance of gettin’ better, you need to eat. I know Goten will at least try to eat if you do.”

“Nu uh.” Came the low protest from the smaller form, still huddled under the blankets as if hording off an incoming blizzard. “No food, Mommy.”

ChiChi hissed under her breath “Now, don’t you be backtalking me too!”

Slowly, a sweaty head with black hair matted down onto the brow emerged from the tunnel of blankets, with wide eyes that very much resembled a broken mole, looking for mercy from the jungle cat that had invaded its den. “Sorry, Mommy. But no food, please.” The slight high pitch on the ‘please’ cut into her heart and she reached out a hand to stroke his face.

“Goten, sweetie, both you and your brother need to eat.”

“No good.” He argued. “Will throw it up again.”

Gritting her teeth some, she inhaled deeply and after a moment exhaled, “You may not. I know sometimes it feels that way but—“

“Will so.” Goten interrupted. “Know my stomach. No food.” He withdrew, much like an animal back into its hole.

Sitting down on the floor next to the bed, she heaved a big sigh and looked to Gohan who at least had remained outside of the fort of blankets though he looked just as feverish. She considered removing a few of the quilts but given her boys’ current disposition, they just might fight her for them and as weakened as not eating had made them, she could hardly overpower them.

“Sorry, Mom.”

Blowing her breath upward and stretching up to push her loose black hairs (and no, that was NOT even a touch of grey) back so they didn’t tickle her eyes or her nose, she set her eyes on her eldest who still looked upon her with a look almost mirror image for his little brother’s pitiful moan.

Sighing, she stood and moved to the side, stepping around Goten’s bed to slip next to her eldest’s. “Gohan, I’m not trying to harp on you two but…you know as well as I do that you need to eat.”

He didn’t argue that fact but offered “Water? With fruit or vegetables? Start there?”

She wanted to argue that no, no, that was not good enough, it was not even near good enough but…

“Alright. I’ll bring up some water with strawberries and oranges. Can you at least eat the fruit in the water when you’re done?”

“I can try.” Gohan offered and reached over and gently ruffled where he knew Goten was. “We can both try.”

Satisfied with that, ChiChi gave a kiss to her eldest then dipped her head into the tunnel of quilts and did the same for Goten.

She padded her way down the hall, past the kitchen and outside where Goku was working hard at a small iron pot over a burning fire. “They still aren’t eatin’.” She reported, her body drenched in worry. “Gohan said they’d try some water with fruit but he couldn’t even promise me that they could eat the fruit in that.” She eyed her husband’s back. “It’s worryin’ me, Goku.”

After a moment, stirring the coals a bit, Goku stood and turned to look at her. He wiped his face, leaving a smudge just under his nose and asked her, “They didn’t touch the porridge?”

“Weren’t even willing to try.” ChiChi folded her arms about herself. “And I believe them Goku. I believe them when they say they wouldn’t be able to keep nothin’ down. I believe them.” She trailed off at that, looking to the ground as if a solution might present itself.

Goku set his hands on her shoulders, “ChiChi, lemme get these patches on ‘em, bring ‘em the water and then we’ll go from there, okay? Maybe sucking on an orange is small but it’s somethin’.”

Nodding against his chest, she laid her forehead there for a moment. “I know. I know. But…they’re hurtin’ and I can’t fix it.” Her voice caught. “I can’t fix it.”

Her husband didn’t respond for a moment. “Not yet but we’re gonna fix it ChiChi. I dunno how or what we’re gonna do but we’re gonna fix it.”

That said, he pulled away from her suddenly and went back to his iron pot, pulling it off the fire. It smelled horrible, of herbs and water and plants and who knew what else but despite the tears in his eyes that ChiChi knew had been prompted by surrounding himself in such a sharp scent, he simply began to pour the water into smaller buckets and dumped bits of clay and sand and other things into them until they turned into an almost paper mache mess.

Without a word, she went into the kitchen and began to cut up the fruits and mix together the pitcher of water. She spent far more time on it than she probably needed to but she was insistent on adding as much fruit as she could and she would have added in vegetables too if she thought it would make a difference. But she wanted them to try and eat the fruit and Goten would turn his nose up if he spied a cucumber in there and rest assured, he would.

By the time she made her way back up to the room, Goku had beaten her there, his herbal remedy in hand. Both of her sons had been coaxed out of their sheets, dressed down to just their boxers and Goku was currently working on Gohan.

He spoke softly as he worked; trying to ease the sharpness of the smell, reassuring both boys that the smell would fade before too long and that it would ease their fevers. The brownish clay went on in small patches at the neck, the armpits and when Gohan eyed his mother with a red face for a moment, she turned her back so her husband could apply it near the groin. It didn’t matter she was the mother, teenage boys would be teenage boys.

Linen wraps kept the mixture pressed hard against the skin and hopefully, the herbal remedies would seep into the blood stream quickly. Goku picked the most opportune places to apply it for that reason. It usually worked pretty quickly at addressing the fevers. She knew he still meant to go searching for an anti-nausea plant that he knew grew over the mountain but she was glad for him being here right now.

As Goku started his same procedure on Goten, who aside from complaining ‘it tickles’ kept still, ChiChi presented her eldest with the glass of water which she had decorated with cut strawberries, oranges and bits of pineapple.

“Thanks, Mom.” He accepted it and gently nursed it. The cold water felt good and even the faint taste of the fruits didn’t seem to be rejected. His mother’s relieved face was a balm to his spirit, even as he literally felt the herbal effects of his father’s remedy start their work.

“Take it slow,” she advised. “We’ll work through this, you’ll see.”

As Goku finished up with Goten, Gohan reluctantly plucked a bit of strawberry from the glass and chewed.

The result was nearly instantaneous.

His stomach screeched, protested and pushed with such force out of his mouth that he only managed to get outside the room before water, bile and small, half chewed bits of berry were gushing out of his mouth.

Heaving slow and hard, tears in his eyes from how deeply it made his gut ache, he welcomed the strong hand on his back and fell into the strong grip that he knew anywhere. “It hurts. It hurts so much. Dad, make it stop.”

Goku tightened his grip on his son, gently easing back and forth, digging his fingers into the small pressure points to hopefully alleviate the muscle cramping. “Shh, it’s okay, little man. It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.”

Yet, even as he spoke the words, Goku wasn’t sure he believed them. His sharp nose had caught it and after a moment surveying the floor coated in half digested mess, his eyes caught it.

Flecks of red decorated the wooden panels. Not a lot, just a few here and there. Small droplets, fresh.

But it wasn’t strawberry.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four: Diagnosis is Difficult

“That doesn’t make sense!”

The older gentleman adjusted his glasses and swallowed hard. While Bulma Briefs was well known to have a strong personality, it was another thing altogether to be faced with it. He and his partners were always up for a challenge and hearing that the son of the richest family in the world had fallen under mysterious illness was a chance that he was not going to pass up. Yet, the prospect of dealing with a spirited Mama Bear had not been in his plans.

All the same, he was a professional. “I am aware, Miss Briefs. Yet, that is what all our tests are reporting. We have run plasma tests, urine tests and we have sent your son’s blood under every blood panel we are aware of. The results are always the same: there is no presence of a virus or even bacteria.” He held his hands up in surrender “I…I know that your son is still ill, he still had a fever and---“

“He’s not eating!” Bulma all but spat. “He’s not eating. I don’t think I need to tell you how bad that is!” She stood, leaned over the desk, “So if there’s no virus, why is he sick?!”

The man shrank back, just a bit and swallowed. “Miss Briefs…I…we, don’t know.”

Oddly enough, that simple statement appeared to have drained all the wind from her sails and she all but crumbled into her chair. “You…don’t…know.” She heaved into her hands a moment and if her reputation was not so well known, the man would have thought her crying. “If you don’t know then who does?! Isn’t this your passion? Your calling? Didn’t you uncover diseases that we had completely forgotten even existed?!”

The man took a deep inhale and nodded, “I did, yes, Miss Briefs. But there is something entirely different about uncovering smallpox and unearthing an illness that does not seem to have a source! Every illness, every disease, every outbreak in our history has had a bacteria, a virus, some kind of foreign agent at its core. Your son possesses none of those.”

An odd feeling took her heart and she dug her nails into her palms. “So, that’s what the famous Doctor and researcher Netsu has to say? You’re giving up?”

The man swallowed and pondered his words carefully. “I have no intention on giving up, Miss Briefs but my hands are tied at the moment. My colleagues and I need more research, more options and more information to work from. Your son has a very…unique genetic make up.”

Bulma folded her arms, frowning deeply. “I know he does. There’s two more like him in the whole universe, least blood wise.” She was secretly glad that Vegeta was working on trying to get Trunks to eat. He would have despised hearing their son compared to the sons of Goku, at least verbally.

Oh, but Doctor Netsu was suddenly sitting right up, light reignited in his eyes and he reached over, grasping Bulma’s hands as if she would slip away at any moment. There was a new gaze to his eyes, instead of the utter frustration that he had been carrying the past two days. “Miss Bulma…your son is not unique?”

Oh if her eyes did not fire at that but luckily, the scientist in here gathered his meaning. “I told you…Trunks is half earthling from me and half Saiyan from his father.” She set the man with a look. “Don’t bother trying to research the Saiyans. You won’t find anything—“

“But there are more mixed blood than your son?” The man didn’t even seem fazed by the prospect of an alien-earthling hybrid but given he had been studying Trunks’ blood for the past few days, it certainly explained so many of the genetic anomalies. “Miss Briefs, if this is true, then that may be our breakthrough.” He stood, the chair clattering behind him, “I realize that it is a delicate question to ask but if we might examine similar blood, we could potential pin point a source, a reason. The more genetic material to compare, the better the chances.”

An odd feeling took over the blue haired woman. She had no doubt that ChiChi would agree to it but what was she asking? She knew that while Gohan not getting credit for defeating Cell was a sour spot with the Son Family matriarch, Gohan had considered it a bit of blessing so that they were not bombarded by media.

What would happen after this was over with? She and her family were used to being chased with cameras and reporters but the Son Family enjoyed their quiet life in the mountains. Bulma was not naïve enough to think that once the information was gathered that they would suddenly be left alone.

The information they were giving these people was essentially the heart of any good scientist’s research. The concept of different species was not a wild one. They had numerous types of them in West City alone even if the more animalistic types tended to keep to the rural ranges. That was an accepted fact.

The things that made Trunks, Gohan and Goten unique were that they were a blend of two different species and not only did they not have any medical problems because of it but they seemed to thrive because of it. The existence of a successful half breed of two species without medical problems and, as far as they could tell, were fertile (though they wouldn’t know for certain until the boys married but all the tests that Bulma had run so far appeared to indicate that they were) was a once in a lifetime opportunity. No matter how much this man wanted to do good, Bulma knew…KNEW deep in her bones that his investigation would not end here. It would not stop here.

But…her Trunks…

She met the doctor’s eyes, “Let me give her a call.”

OOO

“Colder, Daddy.”

Goku bit his lip. “Goten, I don’t wanna make it any colder. You’re already sick. Wouldn’t be fun to have a cold on top of everything else would it?”

Said boy shifted from his spot on the stool and looked up at his father with pitiful eyes. They swam with contained tears and his small cheeks were red and inflamed. Sitting half slumped over, he retorted “No but just one more spray Daddy. Please…it’s so hot.”

He likely shouldn’t have given in but Goku couldn’t really see the purpose in staying hard on this decision. So, he drew the faucet over and gently shifted the temperature lower and gently sprayed down his youngest son.

Goten immediately arched his head back, closing his eyes as the water danced down his body, giving a faint imitation of relief. He shook, a little and it was hard to tell if it was from the cold or from the fever. Maybe it didn’t really matter.

“Okay, that’s enough.” Setting the handheld showerhead down, Goku pulled a towel from the side and scooped his youngest up, toweling him dry and bundling him up in one motion. He didn’t bother with clothes. Goten would strip them off anyway.

Making his way down the hall down to the boys’ room, ChiChi was emerging with a small tray laden with a half empty bowl of clear broth. For a moment, though just a brief one, Goku’s eyes lit up but when his wife looked to meet his face, her own was distraught. She shook her head.

A half second later, Goku could hear his eldest groaning and then the unmistakable sound of vomiting from the inside room. ChiChi pushed past him without another word, though she did stop briefly to provide a kiss to Goten’s cheek. The slight ache in her eyes when she pulled away, astounded by the heat of the flesh, did not go unnoticed.

“I’ll help Gohan and get them settled down.” Goku broke into her thoughts. “Maybe just some water for now?”

It had just been water for over a day and the weariness in their bodies was already becoming apparent. ChiChi knew it and she knew Goku knew it but he was right. Get the boys to sleep, and then they could plan and worry. Gohan probably knew how serious it was but as always, he was keeping silent about it. He’d always been her strong boy and she was grateful for it. She was not going to give Goten fear if she could help it.

Slipping downstairs, she left Goku and the boys to their room and busied her hands in the kitchen. Cleaning and cooking was her strong point. Whenever things went wrong, she went to cooking or cleaning, usually the former. Cleaning was a bit pointless at times with this family, what with broken furniture nearly more common than whole. Cooking though…that had always been a way for her to be useful.

But what did you make for children that couldn’t eat?

Her hands paused, poised with knife over a chopping block, the waiting fruits and vegetables still piled to the side. She had barely bothered to put them away since the boys got sick. Every time she had a moment, she was trying new tricks, new cuts, new recipes, anything to get nourishment in them.

Their compost pile outside was stacked high with her failed attempts.

What else was there to do? What else COULD they do? Even a hospital wouldn’t be able to help them, not with how much nourishment a half Saiyan needed. They would never give them enough and they couldn’t do it forever and…

The sharp ringing and vibrations that suddenly jerked from the wall made her nearly cut her own wrist off. It took a good minute or two before she set down the knife with a clatter and made her way to the loud phone. Hardly anyone called here except—

“Bulma?” She asked immediately upon picking up the receiver.

“ChiChi.” There was a sharp, almost coldness to her tone that simply was not Bulma’s usual fare. “I’m sorry to bug you but I…need a favor.”

Closing her eyes tightly, ChiChi sighed into the phone like all her breath had left her body. “Bulma, I dunno if we can help ya right now. My boys are both sick and---“

The sharp clatter from the other end made her cut herself off. “Bulma?”

There was scuffling, scrambling and cursing before the voice on the other end finally returned, “They…ChiChi, your boys are sick too?!:

Too?

The mother in ChiChi had grown stronger with each passing year and while, yes, her heart was always fixated on her boys first, her youngest’s friendship with Trunks meant that the scion of Vegeta was a well welcomed visitor.

The hacking, chills, vomiting and trembling…that was not just on her children? This horrible sickness was not just attacking HER children? This wasn’t just confined to her boys? Then Trunks was ill? Yet not her, not Bulma, not Goku or Vegeta or…

Why just the babies?!

“…I…Bulma, is it just Trunks?” She clutched the phone receiver so tightly that it cracked a little bit and she had to alleviate her grip. Sliding to lean on the wall, grasping the cord of the phone like a lifeline, ChiChi awaited Bulma’s response with baited breath.

A weary and feathery sigh greeted her ears after a moment “Yes. Fever, throwing up, chills—“

“Not eating?” ChiChi was almost afraid to interrupt with that but she knew if anything would confirm it was the same illness, that would. She had seen Gohan sick once and he still ate. Sick as a dog and he still ate. His stomach, much like his father’s, was hardly dissuaded by anything.

“…No. Not eating. Not for a day or so.” Bulma’s voice wavered a little. “We…we’ve called in the UDN. They’ve been looking over Trunks and they…the doctors say that there are no viruses, no bacteria…nothing.”

“That’s impossible!” ChiChi shouted, a bit louder than she should have and quickly lowered her tone when she heard Goku’s large footsteps rushing down the hall. “This ain’t normal! SOMETHING has to explain it.”

“That’s why I called you.” Bulma said in a rush. “He…one of the doctors think if they can examine more half-Saiyan samples they might be able to narrow down a solution.”

Hope sprung in ChiChi’s heart for the first time in a long while. Hope enough that she could make the crying boy upstairs feel better, hope that her eldest could fill his belly instead of pleading that ‘I’m hungry but I’m scared to try…’

“We’ll bring Goten and Gohan right away, Bulma. If you think they might be able to help…”

“We’ll find a way to fix this, ChiChi, I know we will.” There was an unspoken pounding of fist into hand. “I’ll put some more beds in Trunks’ room. I know Goten will want to be with his brother and Trunks…”

Nodding even though Bulma couldn’t see her, ChiChi agreed with, “We’ll be right over, Bulma.”

The call ended with a click and even after she laid the phone back onto the base, ChiChi stood there, all but swaying a moment until two heavy hands clasped her shoulders. “Go over where, Chi?”

Turning on his toes, the matriarch gazed upward at her husband with eyes full of energy. “Bulma’s. There’s doctors there. They’ve been lookin’ over Trunks’ samples and if they get some more, they can maybe fix this. Trunks is sick too, Goku. Same thing! And just them…”

Goku’s face didn’t change too much except to say, “Needles?”

Despite the situation, ChiChi laughed, with a sharp exhale. “Yes but—“

“Will it help us fix the boys?” It was rare to see and hear that bubbly voice and warm eyes so limp and defeated. As firm a grip on her shoulders as he had, ChiChi saw the weariness of the past few days had dampened even his spirits.

Looking her husband firmly in the eyes, ChiChi admitted. “I don’t know, Goku but it’s the best chance they’ve got.”

“Good enough.” Goku stated simply as he turned back towards the bedrooms, “It’ll hafta be enough.”

OOO

“Can I see your arm, my boy?”

Gohan opened his eyes and shifted, if only slightly. He was getting a bit tired of losing track of so much time. He wasn’t sure if he should be relieved that sleep was coming more readily but something told him that no, it was not a good thing. All the same, he could barely keep his eyes open most of the time. The alien voice asking for his arm was only a mild intrusion and he was half inclined to ignore it.

It was only when his arm moved on its own that his reflexes fired all on their own.

Fist was thrown and it connected with flesh that should have given under it like mud but instead, it was like striking a solid wall. There was light shaking and trembling and a moment later, a half laugh, half sigh met his ears.

“Still got a good left hook, son!”

That voice seemed to clue his brain in to access his eyes because the room was suddenly quite visible. His father had caught his fist and a doctor, wrapped in white coat and glasses was all but trembling in the chair next to them.

Wait…when did they…

“Dad…when did we…”

“You and Goten were sleepin’ so good that I couldn’t wake ya.” Goku smiled and slowly lowered his hand, stroking his son’s sweaty hair back. “Your mom has Goten with Trunks. This doctor is gonna help you, he said but he hasta get…get some blood from you first. Dunno what they see in blood but they must see something.”

The doctor muttered something about being uneducated and Gohan, despite his illness, felt a strong desire to let his eyes burn green, if only to scare the man. Super Saiyan wasn’t something he needed anymore but the remarks that man made, small as they were, made it so tempting.

The needles on the tables cued him back to his father’s current nervous laughter. “Dad, you don’t have to stay if you don’t want.”

Goku jerked, like struck and said, “What? You don’t feel good. I can’t just…”

Smiling a little, ignoring the heat rushing his neck, Gohan offered, “Dad, it won’t take long then…” he paused, half trailed off, “Then you can take me to wherever we’re gonna rest and…”

“Gohan.” Goku leaned over, put his forehead on his son’s, “You can barely stay up as it is. I’m not gonna leave you like this just cause your old man doesn’t like needles.” Gohan could HEAR the fear in the man’s voice and yet, it was so comforting. Not the fear but the knowledge that his father, who feared so little, was going to face what he did for him.

He didn’t move his head, just let it rest as was against his father’s forehead and lifted his arm out to the doctor. Goku, to his credit, caught onto what the teen was doing and kept his eyes firmly on Gohan’s eyes.

“We’re gonna fix you right up, Gohan,” Goku was saying as the doctor prodded Gohan’s muscles and skin with his fingers. Gohan had to reduce his ki to make his skin pliable enough for the needles. It had been so long since he’d had to do that and the weakness that flooded him with that simple action almost made him empty his stomach right there.

Slipping just a bit, the needle in his arm jerked and despite being able to take more blows to the body than anyone else alive, Gohan yelped in pain. With his ki down and his body weak, the small needle cutting his vein hurt.

Goku’s blazing green eyes nearly sent the doctor into a coma and his sight did not falter one bit on the presence of the needles. His voice all but echoed. “Careful! Yer supposed to help him, not hurt him!”

“D-dad, it’s okay, it’s okay, I…” Gohan pulled his father’s attention back though a piece of him squealed a little at the paleness that took the arrogant man’s face. “I slipped and he slipped, it’s okay. I just…I need to rest my head, okay?” He didn’t wait for a response and laid his temple on Goku’s shoulder.

The Saiyan stiffened, if only for a moment then softened and wrapped his arms tight around his son, letting his cheek fall on Gohan’s head. “Okay, okay, we can do that.” He inhaled and the scent of illness was so heavy that Goku thought he would collapse through the floor. What could the doctors see in the blood or whatever that wasn’t obvious? You could smell it, see it, hear it…

He could hear the strain in his son’s lungs. The weariness of every heartbeat.

It frightened him.

Needles had always bothered him because they poked and moved when you didn’t expect them. Because he didn’t understand what they did to the body and in the hospital, they had always made him feel so weak and he hated that.

This was not that kind of fear.

This was a fear he had only felt a few times before: when Gohan was taken by Raditz, when he felt Gohan’s ki plummeting on Namek, when he’d seen his son face off against Cell, when Buu had…

Goku hated this feeling, this utter sense of helplessness. Of being so close and knowing, knowing without a doubt that his son’s body was shutting down and there was not a damn thing he could do about it.

The teen’s body slumped, a little, pressing against his chest a little more.

Asleep. He’d fallen asleep with a needle in his arm.

His Gohan…

When the older man finally took the needles and vials away, Goku gathered his son into his arms and stood, pulling him as close as he could. The doctor didn’t say anything but Goku felt the shift in his ki. Something had touched him and he was pulling out those odd machines and more vials and…

“You can save my son, right?” Goku didn’t expect his tone to be so…pleading.

The man paused, back still turned and shifted, eyeing the tall Saiyan. “I…we don’t know what is wrong yet, Sir. But we are going to do everything we can. THAT much I can promise you.”

Goku left without a shed of reassurance, resting his head against his son’s even as he walked. Even as Gohan shook and trembled and his body burned hot and cold all together and his Saiyan blood screamed for nourishment and rejected it all the same.

“Not good enough. That’s not good enough.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Five: Complexity

“Vegeta!”

Had it been anyone else but Bulma, Vegeta might have dismissed such a call as a nuisance but in this case, he was quick to respond, rushing down the hall. Any staff members were quick to jump out of the way. The Saiyan Prince was well known at Capsule Corp and with everyone’s nerves so frayed right now, he was quite possibly the most lethal.

Slamming open the door to the room where they had placed all three half Saiyans, the Saiyan Prince came into a sight:

Two of the doctors was lying on the ground, one slumped against the wall. The one on the ground was conscious but was pressing a bit of gauze against his forehead where some blood had begun to stain the cloth. Bulma was about two feet away from their son, tears in her eyes and the only reason she was not moving any closer was because Gohan had managed to wrap his arm around her waist and hold her back. As ill as he was, as malnourished as he was, he was still more than enough to restrain a human female.

The room was bathed in a familiar golden glow.

“Trunks!”

Vegeta crossed the room in less time than it took to process and clamped his hands over his son’s fists. The tenseness of the muscles was more than apparent and the raised ki was another symbol impossible to ignore. The familiar shimmer of Super Saiyan made the room feel particularly hot.

“Trunks! Boy, drop your ki! Drop it now!”

Trunks wasn’t unconscious. Vegeta wasn’t sure if he had been when he flung the doctors away but he was certainly not sleeping now. His eyes, aqua though they were, were wide in unspoken terror. “I can’t! Dad, I can’t!”

“Don’t speak such nonsense!” There was that familiar ferocity in that voice. “Drop it now! Super Saiyan is no use to you right now!”

Tears welled up in the boy’s eyes and his breath came fast and short. Super Saiyan was so natural to him; it hadn’t taken much for him or Goten to achieve it. Much easier than the others, or so he was told. Yet now, it felt like a fire that was trying to burn him alive from the inside out. His lungs hurt, his heart hurt, everything hurt and he was frightened.

He had never before not been able to drop Super Saiyan.

“I can’t!” Trunks all but screamed in his father’s face. “I didn’t even wanna go Super Saiyan but I did and I can’t make it stop! I can’t make it stop!”

Vegeta was hardly the most delicate of people. Yet, hearing the utter panic in his son’s voice made him more frantic than he thought possible. It was almost as if HE was the one in danger. But Super Saiyan was not dangerous to the user, normally…

Yet when Kakarrot had gotten that damned heart virus, Super Saiyan didn’t help because it put more stress on the heart. Now, his son and all of them for that matter had become proficient enough with the transformation that it did not strain the body nearly as much but to be formed into a transformative state without a way to drop it was hardly a development that created a sense of calm.

“Dad, I can’t stop! I can’t, I can’t! Dad, make it stop!!”

The aura of ki around the boy sparked and rose, all but touching the ceiling for a moment. It was not a relaxed state Super Saiyan which had been Trunks’ usual form when he transformed ever since the Saiyan father had first become aware of it. No, this was active Super Saiyan, the powered version used in a fight only when pushed to brink. They had not needed such a state for years and Trunks and Goten only used it because they were still poorly trained, despite their natural skill.

Vegeta met the boy’s eyes, eyes that he had grown accustomed to seeing in a variety of states—happy, sad, frustrated, and more often than not, wrought with sarcasm. These eyes were none of those, full of uncertainty and desperation. Perhaps the woman had become accustomed to it but Vegeta was not used to such a sight.

He despised fear.

Moreso like this…in the face of his son, than any other time. The pleading tone, the obvious panic in the boy’s pitch was pain to his ears but not in a physical sense. It was a much deeper pain, one that he really couldn’t pinpoint except it was deep within the Saiyan Prince’s chest and he felt an unholy desire to destroy the source of it. To destroy whatever it was that was attacking his son and causing it.

Swinging his fist, Vegeta collided with the back of his son’s head and with a low groan, the boy collapsed to the bed.

“Vegeta! What the hell is wrong with you?!” Bulma pushed forward as soon as Gohan released her and oddly enough, Vegeta found himself actually grateful when he felt the ki of Kakarrot and his woman just down the hall.

No reason to be. No, no reason at all to be grateful because what was Kakarrot going to do? Yet it was comforting all the same and he was disgusted for it. He had never needed the presence of that clown before, never needed the presence of anyone before.

Yet as he gazed down at his wife cradling their son to her chest, he again was grateful for it.

“Kakarrot.” He said it firmly, empty of emotion as the two entered the room, Goten cradled in ChiChi’s arms. The young half Saiyan looked red in the eyes. He’d been crying and odd as it was to him, Vegeta felt no sense of shame for the boy for it.

“Vegeta, what happened?” Goku, as always, seemed to just take Vegeta’s attitude with a grain of salt and as soon as his eyes swept the room and saw his eldest son was okay, if sweaty and lying on his side, he focused, “What’s going on?”

Goten stirred a little, leaning into ChiChi’s chest. “Why is Trunks’ Super Saiyan?”

ChiChi gently shushed him, “Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, Goten.”

The young boy shook his head “Uh uh, you gotta focus to go Super Saiyan, Mommy. Maybe not much but some.” He looked over at the gathered two full blooded Saiyans. “And why’s he still Super Saiyan, Daddy? Can you do that when you’re sleeping?”

Goku blinked and looked down at Bulma. Sure enough, while Trunks was unconscious and with a large lump on the back of his head, his hair was still bleached yellow and there was still a golden aura surrounding him. “Sleeping, sure if you’ve been trained for it but…knocked out, don’t think so.”

“Then what’s wrong with him?” Goten demanded, whimpering a little bit. “What’s wrong with Trunks?!”

Goku slipped from Vegeta’s side and gently laid his head on Goten’s. “Hey, hey, little buddy. Calm down. It’s not gonna help Trunks if you get all sick and upset, right?”

Lifting his eyes, Goten sniffed a little, “But Trunks never does that. Why is it…”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out, boy and your questions aren’t helping!” Vegeta’s snarling voice cut into the exchange and while Goten was not exactly afraid of the man, he still withdrew a little, pressing back into his mother.

ChiChi wrapped her arms around her son’s head, pressing him tight into her chest, even while she set Vegeta with the darkest look she could manage. If she hadn’t had Goten in her arms, she would definitely would have let loose a tirade of harsh words and maybe a few punches…

Bulma spat, “And you’re not helping, Vegeta!”

Goku’s tone was dark and cold. “And don’t take it out on MY kid.” He reached over, wrapped his arm around ChiChi and walked her past and to the bed where they gently set Goten down. Gohan gently moved to sit up and reached over, laying a hand on his shoulder.

Vegeta reset his eyes on his son. The ki was still flaring and he could see sweat on Bulma from the mere presence of it. Her blue hair was starting to stand on end from the energy—the brat was unconscious! This made no sense!

He ground his teeth. Turning to the slumped doctors by the wall, he snarled, “Have you damned fools found ANYTHING?”

The conscious doctor was gently helping his colleague up. “I…we have not yet found any answers, Mr. Vegeta—“

“Why the hell are we paying you?”

Bulma’s voice held its usual sharpness but a touch of softness, “Not helping, Vegeta. Again.”

“Mr. Vegeta, we don’t know much about the alien blood within your son. It is one thing to have access to the DNA but medicine is not just biological. We have no knowledge of where it comes from and we are still analyzing the blood samples from the others but the alien blood—“

“It’s _Saiyan_.” Vegeta spat it like it was a curse word. “As for the ‘origin’… I’m fucking standing here. You need to know about the Saiyan race? Fucking ask.” He yanked the doctor to his feet and threw the unconscious one over his shoulder. He turned, set his eyes on the group around his son. “Kakarrot!”

Lifting his attention from his own sons, Goku asked, “Eh?

“Watch my boy.” That said, Vegeta never lessened his grip on the one doctor’s arm and stormed out of the room. “Let’s go speak.”

OOO

“Fascinating.”

“We didn’t call you here for you to tell me what I already know.” Vegeta’s tone was short, even for him. “I don’t need to hear about how interesting you find it. I need to hear about how you can use this information to fix my son.” Vegeta’s eyes were focused and wary; he knew that this doctor, as backward as humanity’s doctors were, was the only shot his son had but the way the man would dig and dig about aspects of their race that seemed irrelevant put the Saiyan Prince on edge.

His son was NOT a Guinea pig.

And while he could normally care less (and yes, he MEANT that) about the other two half breeds boys, they were above being Guinea pigs as well. Their race, small as it was, was a strong and proud one; that had not changed and he would not stand by and watch them being reduced to science experiements.

Even so, this man was their best chance so while Vegeta tolerated him, he never removed his dark glare.

The doctor swallowed and took a shaky sip of his water. He was lucky that he had been granted that. If he was not certain that this would lead him to a series of massive scientific grants and discoveries, he would have left several hours ago. Still, even with that knowledge, this Saiyan made him nervous. He’d asked if the other one would be any help—he seemed more reasonable—only to be told that they would be lucky if ‘Kakarrot’ understood the questions.

Still, for all the anxiety this meeting was generating, the doctor was more and more convinced that looking into these half alien samples was going to be more than enough payment. Oh, what they might be able to learn if even the cursory samples were anything to go by.“You say that the Saiyan body is adaptable, far beyond what we would consider adaptable here?”

“This planet is quite backwater.” Vegeta remarked. “That’s not exactly high praise. The Saiyan race is one of the best evolved in the universe. It had to be for battle. Our immune systems rarely fail us. They attack anything invasive as an army. My son has my high pedigree. Whatever this is, it is not a simple matter of earth pathogen. Nothing here could do such a thing.”

Not lacking in confidence, that much was certain. “Are there ever any instances of systems failing? Refusing to—“

“The Saiyan body has natural backups.” Vegeta scoffed. “If the liver is damaged, the gall bladder and spleen takes over its function. If the spleen fails, there is a smaller, but efficient one. If one lung fails, the system shuts that side down and redirects to the healthy one. Any cuts and bruises heal in half the time you humans take. If our body begins to fail us, the organs find a way around it.”

When the doctor stayed silent, the Saiyan Prince elaborated, “Our tails have a gland at the base designed to manufacture repairs. If there is irreversible damage, it releases what you humans calls stem cells to the site to regenerate the organ. How else do you think Kakarrot and I have taken such harsh blows and still been able to sire children?”

When the doctor took a slight glance to the side, trying to get a look around the Prince, Vegeta slammed his hand down on the table. “My tail is gone, fool. As is Kakarrot’s. As is Kakarrot’s brat. But the gland is still there. The tail made it easier to work but it is still there.”

“And your son and…”

“Born without them.”

Tapping his pen, the doctor eyed him, “So, this Super Saiyan your son is in…it’s a natural state?”

“…Among the very strong.” The Saiyan Prince offered. “My son and Kakarrot’s brats are the first in generations, aside from us of course.”

“…I see.” The doctor again paused, as if pondering how to phrase his response. “So, the Super Saiyan state…increases speed and strength?”

“Yes, I’ve already told you that.” Vegeta was swiftly losing his patience. “Are you going to get to the point or not?”

“I believe, Sir,” the doctor offered “That if the body works as you claim—n-n-not that I believe you are lying, not at all!—then your son’s body is, as you said, adapting. It is trying to increase its strength to fight whatever it is that is attacking him. I’d imagine the other two boys will follow soon. You said that they are not eating…”

“And that is the problem.” Vegeta frowned, though the man’s explanation made sense. “A Saiyan would does not eat does not live long.”

“Could we perhaps use force feeding—“

“Do you think us so daft that we would not have tried that if we thought it might work?” Vegeta narrowed his eyes. “And the brat is in Super Saiyan. There is no needle on this planet or any other that will pierce his skin now.”

The man looked down, rubbing his wrists. “How does digestion work with the Saiyan body? It must be different from humans…”

Vegeta frowned, in thought, “It is far more accelerated. You humans begin to digest when food hits your tongue. Saiyans begin when the smell reaches our nose and we absorb far more readily than you do. There is very little we cannot use for energy.”

“…th-then if I may, there may be a proposition we can try.”

OOO

“Is Trunks gonna be okay?”

Goku turned to his youngest. He looked so small, curled into a ball on the bed, resting his head in ChiChi’s lap. The human woman would stroke his hair back, trying to offer her own comfort any way she could.

            “Ah, he’s gonna be okay, little buddy. You and Trunks are tough little guys!”

            The young boy pouted, just a bit and leaned into his father’s hand when he knelt and lay a hand on his head, “Daddy, are we gonna turn out like Trunks?”

            Goku shifted his eyes to the other bed. Bulma had moved to sit on the bed herself, cradling Trunks to her chest. His aura had not died. It still blazed bright as a flame and Goku could smell the lightning in the room. Yet the child didn’t awaken.

            “I dunno.”

            ChiChi jerked, slightly, “Goku! Goten, of course no—“

            “Don’t lie, Mom.” The heavy voice came from the bed behind them. Gohan had been keeping quiet, his eyes shut for most of the time. “We can tell when you lie.”

            ChiChi turned to face her eldest. “Gohan, there’s no point in—“

            “We’re scared already, Mom.” He said with a deep exhale. “You aren’t sparing us from anything.” He shifted, half sat up and then moved to swing his feet down. ChiChi pushed Goten, a little rougher than she had intended, into Goku’s arms and was up on her feet.

            “Gohan, stop! Lay back down…”

            “I hafta pee, Mom.” He said it more harshly than he intended but it was hard to maintain an upbeat attitude. Luckily, his mother withdrew as soon as he said that and asked. Goku relaxed at that statement and focused on getting Goten comfortable, adding a little brush of ki to his hand as he rubbed the boy’s back.

            “Do you need our help?” ChiChi managed to keep the worrisome pitch from her tone but well, a mother was still a mother, after all!

            “N-no, I’m okay.” Gohan cursed the redness that coursed through his skin and stumbled, slightly, but remained upright. Looking back, he spied the way ChiChi would chew on her lower lip, wring her hands and offered, as penance, “If I need help, I’ll call, okay?”

            While hardly satisfied, the matriarch nodded as her son slipped into the bathroom just to the right of the room, closing the door behind him. She slumped, fell to her backside where Gohan had once laid.

            “What are we going to do? Bulma, you’re the scientist. Whatta we do?”

            The blue haired woman didn’t answer for a long moment. Sometimes, ChiChi just needed to vent and it was pretty clear that there was no solid answer. Yet, maybe it was just to fill the silence of the room. Even Goku didn’t have a lot to say, aside from the gentle humming he was offering to Goten to keep him asleep.

            “I dunno. Maybe…” Bulma never took her eyes off her son but then she said, a little more sure. “Maybe we’re looking in the wrong spot?”

            Goku looked over at her, gently brushing Goten’s back as he moved. The boy nuzzled a bit but didn’t wake up. That in itself bothered the Saiyan. While both his boys were good sleepers, getting them TO sleep was usually a task. The fact that between ChiChi and himself, it had only been a few minutes and Goten was already out of it enough to not be bothered by being jostled tied his stomach in knots.

            That was NOT a feeling he was used to having.

            “Whatcha mean?” Goku asked her, “The wrong spot?”

            The blue haired woman frowned. “I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a crazy thought but…the doctors are already saying that there’s no presence of anything odd in the boys’ blood: no virus, no bacteria, no fungus, no parasite, nothing. But they’re still sick. Goku, you and ChiChi know more about this stuff that me—can it be spiritual or ki-ish thing?”

            Mother and Father exchanged looks, with Goku’s face more contoured than ChiChi’s.

            “Goku? Is that possible?” ChiChi asked with the barest hint of hope in her voice. “Would that explain it? Could that…DO this?”

            It was an interesting thought. “Dunno.” Goku said simply. “Ki is a weird thing. And Mr. Popo always said that there was more to the world than just what we see. Kinda like when we do image training. You ever do that, ChiChi?”

            When she shook her head, Goku elaborated, “You focus and use your ki to train on another plane by linking your minds together. I guess…well, I mean, if we can train there and link minds and stuff then maybe something could attack there but I ain’t never heard of it.”

            “Dad!”

            ChiChi was up before Goku and immediately rushed to the bathroom door. “Gohan, what is it, sweetie? I’m comin in—“

            “No, Mom! Dad!”

            Bulma, despite herself, smiled as Goku set Goten down and ChiChi withdrew from the door, hand still outstretched. She offered her friend a soft smile in sympathy. “Well, he IS a teenaged boy, ChiChi.”

            “I know, I know…”

            Goku pushed past his wife and slipped into the room.

OOO

            “Gohan?”

            The room didn’t look like much, there wasn’t a smell of vomit or blood but there was a strong scent of sweat. Lots and lots of it. The fever was up again but there was something else. Not ki, but something else nonetheless.

            Goku finally spied his eldest crouched in the corner, shaking, red all over and it looked like he had all but shredded his clothes. He still had on an undershirt but aside from that, not much else.

            Slipping around the toilet, Goku froze in mid step.

            “Wha…”

            Gohan turned to look at him, tears running down his face. He reached down and with a shaking hand lifted the long furry tail into view. “Dad?”

Chapter Text

Chapter Six: Adaptions

    Goku stood there, dumbfounded, with a completely lost expression on his face for a good few minutes. He took in the scene—his son’s shredded clothes, the presence of the tail, the sweat and tears—but he really didn’t know what to make of it. He didn’t know what to make of a lot of this. Illness, regular illness, he could handle. Infections, injuries, he could handle. This though, this unknown invader that was doing so many odd things to his children, was something alien to him and it wasn’t something he could fight.

            Goku felt helpless and he hated that feeling.

            “Dad?” His son’s voice pierced his thoughts after the odd moment and he shook himself back into reality. Refocusing on his son, his heart grew heavy. The wide eyed, frightened and unsure look in Gohan’s eyes cut him deep to the core. Kneeling down to his level and settling on his knees on the ground, Goku gave a shaky smile.

            “So, it decided to grow back, huh? Sure took its sweet ol’ time.”

            Stroking the fur of the tail with almost a low sense of hesitation, Gohan looked up, “Why though? It’s been years. Why now? And why when I’m sick? Why…”

            Goku gently took hold of his son’s hands and took advantage of the situation to rub the furry tail, finding that just like when Gohan was little, the motion worked as a relaxation method. “Hey, let’s not panic, okay? Your tail used to grow back all the time and you tol’ me in the Time Chamber that you missed it. Maybe it finally decided to give you that wish, huh?’

            Gohan’s look was full of frustration. “Dad, you know it can’t just be that.”

            Goku shrugged, “It’s a nice thought though, isn’t it?” A light pout took his face, “Woulda have been enough for you a few years ago.”

            Gohan had to admit to that. For so long, his father could have said anything and he would have believed it. Growing up had its downsides.

            Looking down at his hands, Gohan caressed his tail a moment, taking in the feel once more.

While he had grown accustomed to not having his tail after the battle with the Saiyans, he never really stopped missing it. He was sure his mom was relieved as it made clothing a lot easier but for Gohan, it always felt like a piece of him was missing. If it had not just come out of nowhere, he might have been excited.

            “But that’s not what’s going on, Dad.” Diverting his eyes downward, Gohan swallowed, his hands shaking and he knew his father could feel it. “I…I don’t know if Goten feels it but I do. The way my body NEEDS food. It wants it, it needs it.”

            Goku nodded and stroked the boy’s hair back, trying as hard as he could to ignore the depth and volume of the sweat that had accumulated. “I know and we’re trying to fix that. I…I know you and your brother need food. We’re gonna fix it, Gohan, I promise.”

            “Dad, I can FEEL my body eating itself!” The stable voice finally broke in a series of wobbly fractures. “I try to ignore it but I FEEL it. I can feel my muscles starting to give away and it’s like havin’ a bunch of ants crawling under my skin. My stomach hurts so much that it burns. Sleepin’ is getting harder because I can’t keep ignoring this. My body’s destroying itself and I can’t do anything to stop it!”

            Tears in his eyes, Gohan reached out and wrapped his arms as tight around Goku as he could, pulling himself deep into his chest. There was not much strength in that grip though it did not lack conviction, not in the least. The trembling felt like a wave.

            “Dad, I don’t want to die.” Gohan’s words were cold, like they had been coated in ice and his voice choked. “Daddy, I don’t want to die.” That time, with a simple shift back to the word that had been Goku’s title for years, tears ran down the boy’s cheeks and he sobbed, openly. “Daddy, please, I don’t want to die!”

            Goku’s arms became as steel and he pulled his son as tight as he dared without hurting him, as if his grip alone would fix all of this. Looking down at Gohan, he couldn’t deny what Gohan said—he could see the skin growing thinner and he could feel the mass of his son’s strength gradually waning.

            “Daddy, I don’t want to die!”

            He sounded so young, like he was the little boy again hiding behind Goku’s leg as Raditz set down on the sandy shores of the Turtle Island. Burying his face into Goku’s chest, the Saiyan could almost see the reflection of the tailed toddler trying to hide into his father’s leg.

            And Gohan wasn’t wrong.

            Goku felt it. He tried to ignore it but he couldn’t, not any more than Gohan could. The way the boy’s ki was faltering and slowly growing weaker and weaker. He felt it in Goten in the next room, much as he tried to imagine it to have another source.

            His boys were dying and Gohan, his poor Gohan, was wise enough and insightful enough to know _exactly_ what was happening.

            “You’re not gonna die, son.” Goku’s voice was hard and sure, full of reassurance that he did not feel but he pushed that feeling down, so deep into his ki so that even he wouldn’t be able to focus on it. “You hear me, you’re not going to die.”

            If Gohan felt any shame over his outburst, he didn’t show it. He just wept, shoulders shaking. Goku knew that feeling. It was one thing to face down death in the battlefield. While he and Gohan might have been different in regards to the reasons that they fought: one primarily for protection and one for thrills, the response when faced with danger on the battlefield was always the same. It made your adrenaline pump, it made your senses sharp and while your mind was frantic to find a way out, it was not focused on if you didn’t.

            This though, it was like when Goku had the heart virus. He would remember that for the rest of his life. You had nothing to do but focus on what the pain you were feeling meant. You had no way to not think about it and your mind conjured not only the many ways that you would end but who you left behind. What would happen to them because you couldn’t do anything.

            “Gohan, look at me.”

            His son didn’t move, keeping his face hidden in the folds of his father’s shirt. “Gohan, I said look at me.”

            Lifting his head at the sharpness that invaded his father’s tone, Gohan moved to wipe his tears away but Goku just shook his head and gently laid his forehead against his son’s. “Listen to me. You’re not going to die. Neither is Goten. I don’t care what it takes. I don’t care what we have to do. You’re not going to die. I’ll march into the Afterlife and pull you two right back out, King Yemma can deal with me if he’s got a problem with it.”

            Despite the situation, that thought forced a smile on Gohan’s face.

            “But it’s not gonna come to that because we’re going to make you two better, understand? You can worry about not feelin’ good, about being hungry and how nasty it makes you feel but not about dying. Because it’s not happening.” In a way that only Goku could do, the Saiyan father laughed—a shaky, unsure laugh that one did when there was simply too much emotion and it had to go somewhere, “I promise. And you can ask your Mom if you want about me keepin’ my promises.”

            “No.” Gohan allowed. “You’ve…always kept your word.”

            “See?” Goku announced as if it solved all the woes of the world. “And I’m gonna keep this one too.” Looking over the room, the Saiyan declared “But we needa get you off this floor. You’re gonna get sicker.”

            Gohan froze up and looked around, his eyes seeking a towel or blanket or anything to cover himself. “Dad, I kinda…well, my slacks are…” He had all but shredded them when he got into the room, so obsessed over the pain and sensation that had turned out to be his tail to care otherwise. Now, he felt shame for it; clothing was not cheap for his parents.

            “Eh, we’ll get you new ones later, c’mon.” He gently stood, easing his son to his feet. “You’re just headin’ right back to that bed anyway.”

“Dad.” Gohan stressed, a bit more forcefully. “I’m bare from the waist down. My tail can only hide so much.” He didn’t add that he had a feeling he would be using that tail to help himself balance, as jelly like as his legs felt. “Mom and Bulma and everyone is out there.”

“So? You ain’t got nothing I ain’t seen and your Mom’s seen it too. Bulma probably has too, at some point when you were a squirt.”

            “Dad. No. Not the point.” Yet, he was beginning to feel like he wouldn’t exactly be able to walk back in there in any event. He couldn’t exactly make much for a debate. “S-sorry, I know this is silly but…”

            “No, it’s important to you. Your Mom too. Goten a little bit. I just don’t get it.” He smiled, even as he wrapped his son’s arm around his shoulder. “But no problem, we can handle this.” He raised his brow, lightly. “Long as you promise to stay in that bed, resting and no more trying to handle things on your own, deal?”

            A light smile, despite the paleness of his face, “Deal.”

OOO

            “Where is Kakarrot?”

            Vegeta’s sudden booming voice disrupted the silence of the room but Bulma was more than happy for it. It gave her something else to focus on. Something besides her son who was glowing like some type of radioactive doll in the bed. He had at least muttered some in his sleep so he was not comatose. That didn’t give her as much comfort as it should have.

            ChiChi looked up from her current focus next to Goten’s bedside. Vegeta was always boisterous and she had grown a bit accustomed to it though it was still not her preference nor something she made a habit of tolerating. However, Vegeta was full of passion and with the way the doctor trailed him so close, she felt hope perk in her breast. “Vegeta, did you discover somethin’? Somethin’ good?”

            The Saiyan Prince shifted his sights to her and for once, there seemed to be something besides arrogance looking at her. ChiChi was well aware that Vegeta didn’t like her but this time, he seemed to be genuinely considering what she was saying. It lasted a mere moment before he said, again,

            “Where’s your mate? We need Kakarrot.”

            “Need me for what?”

            ChiChi stood, intent on rushing over to check on Gohan as soon as she heard her husband’s voice and the creaking opening of the door. “Goku!” She shouted instead. “Where are your pants?” Her face burned red in her husband’s stead.

            Sure enough, the Saiyan was helping their son back to his bed in just his boxers. “Well, Gohan’s were all torn up. His tail grew back.” He gestured to his limp boy who managed to make it back to sink to the mattress. “So I lent him mine.”

            Bulma groaned but said nothing; what could be said to that? That was classic Goku. ChiChi flopped down in her chair with a low moan of frustration. It only lasted a moment though before Vegeta inquired.

            “The brat’s tail grew back?”

            Gohan, now safely covered under blanket and sheet, wrestled his father’s slacks off and handed them back to him. He allowed just the tip of his brown tail to slip from the blankets. Goku reached over and gently stroked his son’s hair back. “Yep. Dunno why. But it sure did.” Under the critical gaze of his wife, he accepted the pants from his son and pulled them back on.

            Vegeta eyed the doctor, “See? The Saiyan body evolves and adapts. Even only half Saiyan blood.” He frowned, folded his arms, “The tail used to be our root of power and as powerful as your boy is, Kakarrot, that tail pulls power from the moon he doesn’t normally have. His body is trying to help him.”

            The doctor set his sights on the curled brown tail with a renewed fervor. It was enough to make Gohan withdraw his extra limb back under the blankets and wrap it tightly around his waist. Goku said nothing aloud but the look he set the doctor with was quite clear—hands off the tail.

            The doctor wasn’t sure what was more unsettling—Vegeta’s voice or Goku’s eyes.

            ChiChi walked over, “So how does that help? What did you two talk about?”

            Bulma stood herself, “What did you find?!”

            Swallowing a little hard, the man responded, backing up a bit from the encroaching women, “Well, nothing yet but we may have a thought. We will need to run a few tests on your husbands and your sons.”

            “On our husbands?” ChiChi blinked. “Why our husbands? They ain’t sick.”

            “Exactly.” The man elaborated. “If what Vegeta says is correct and I’ve no reason to think it is not, this Saiyan blood is an expert at adaption. Given that your eldest has grown back a limb that has been gone…” he looked to the group for a figure.

            Goku was the one that answered. “Last lost it when he was five.”

            Nodding as he continued, the man cleared his throat, “Yes, so for his body to suddenly regenerate it after so long and when he is in so much physical distress, it seems to reason that the Saiyan genes are strong in your children.”

            Vegeta snorted, “Obviously. It’s why they’re still alive.”

            Bulma set him with such a sharp and deep glare that it was amazing the room did not catch aflame. “Vegeta—“

            “So, what did you needa test us for?” Goku interrupted. Whether it was to prevent an explosion from Bulma or simply because he was hyperfocused, it really didn’t matter. It managed to diffuse the bubbling rage of the blue haired woman fairly easily.

            “Y-yes, well, as we can see, sleep seems to be what their bodies are using to compensate for the lack of food and nourishment that they can receive.” He added “But as Vegeta has informed me, lack of food is nothing a Saiyan body can survive for very long. So, if we can get an idea of how the Saiyan body takes in nourishment, we may be able to find a way to compensate.” He swallowed again, looking from the fathers to the mothers, “We will need to perform a test to take measurements both while you two,” he looked to Goku and Vegeta “eat as well as one of your sons.”

            Bulma spoke up, “But our boys can’t hold anything down.”

            “Doesn’t matter,” the man said simply. “That’s not the point. The point is to get measurements, make comparisons and see what we can ascertain.”

            It sounded remarkably callous but Bulma, being a scientist herself, could understand the concept. “So we have to tell one of our kids that we’re going to make them throw up again.”

            ChiChi bit her lip, “I hate to make any of them sick again…” She looked to Goku who had not moved from his spot by Gohan’s bedside. In fact, he was half positioned to be centered between Gohan and this doctor. If ChiChi focused, she could see that protective light curl of his lip, not something she saw often. And now that man was wanting to make her kids sick all over again. “They sound so miserable when they get sick and they’ve been throwin’ up the past few days.”

            “I’ll do it, Mom.” Gohan spoke out suddenly though he made no move to lift his head from the bed and he kept his eyes closed. “Maybe my tail growing back will give me a boost of energy or something.”

            Goku eyed his eldest. “Gohan, you’re already pretty drained…”

            “And so’s Goten. Trunks hasn’t even woken up yet. I’m older than them, I’m stronger than them. Lemme do it.” He opened his eyes slightly, “We hafta do something, Dad.”

            Goku turned back to the doctor, “Will the test hurt ‘em?”

            “Not in the slightest.” The doctor smiled, though nervously. “It is the same one that I’ll be performing on you and Vegeta so you may judge for yourself.”

            Goku didn’t like this. Not because of the test per say but these doctors had been rubbing his skin wrong since they got here. Nothing specific that they had done but…well, it made Goku unnerved all the same. The way that doctor was eyeing his son like he was some kind of lab rat made his skin boil.

            Yet he was making sense. The boys needed food and nothing they were doing thus far was getting food in them. He could feel…if they didn’t change that soon, then his sons and Vegeta’s son, they were all going to die. And it would be a death that he could not cheat with the dragonballs.

            “What do you need us to do?”

OOO

            “Ow.”

            Vegeta scoffed and eyed the Saiyan next to him, “Will you quit complaining? Since when do you complain about getting to eat?” He looked at the table before them, which was set with juice, water and simple broth. Given that they were going to have Gohan try this next, it made sense to go with something simple.

            “You didn’t say that they’d be putting weird things on our body.” Goku wasn’t really complaining though. Not truly. The simple pinch had been next to nothing for him. The many sensors on his throat, cheeks and the weird, half dissolving ones inside his mouth were odd and felt bothersome but they didn’t hurt. But there wasn’t a sound you could make for something that felt odd so ‘ow’ was all he had to work with.

            The food before them was simple, not truly complicated or rich. It smelled decent enough though but Goku felt very little interest in it, for once. All he could think about was his sons in the room down the hall and how he wasn’t in there with them. Unless he was taking care of vital needs, he didn’t want to be away from them, not when they were this sick.

            “So, now what?”

            “Just eat normally.” The man was sitting not too far from the two of them, settled in a chair with a laptop set in front of him. “The sensors are already feeding me information. Just do what you would normally do.”

            Vegeta scoffed, “I don’t know if that is a good option. Kakarrot may well eat the utensils.”

            Goku ignored that jab, picked up the spoon and began to eat.

            Silence reigned and Vegeta followed suit.

            There was none of the boisterous chomping and slurping that usually accompanied the two Saiyans when they ate. There was an overall sense of foreboding that made the entire room feel heavy and hot. There was no guarantee that this would even give them something to go off of but it was better to have a small lead than none at all.

            If that doctor would stop looking at that computer so greedily though, it would be an improvement. Granted, there must have been some interesting data given their unusual bloodlines but both Saiyan fathers had seen the way he looked at their sons.

            The way the man’s assistants would linger far longer than necessary, as if trying to get additional information that was not pertinent. The way that they would ask continuous questions and essentially now that Gohan’s tail had grown back, the way the doctor had all but walked over and asked to see it before the two Saiyans had pulled him from the room, insisting the tests begin immediately.

            The man was necessary. His tools were necessary; his insight was necessary. Bulma, for all her intelligence, only knew slightly more about health than they did. Regular doctors were utterly useless with their type of physiology.

            They needed the resources, the knowledge and the potential cure this man and his lackeys could give them. Once that was over and done, Vegeta had every intention of booting the man from his property as violently as possible.

            Goku couldn’t wait for this to be over. He wanted his sons better so that they could all go back to the mountain, maybe pull the boys out of school for a few days and just enjoy one another. Maybe have a picnic cookout in the yard or by the lake. No worries, no concerns, just the family and the mountain.

            Goku got the distinct feeling that this man, however useful he might be, had no intention on letting that happen. Goku didn’t like the man but he also didn’t like the way he would look at his sons. He looked at them, not like patients but…well, Goku wasn’t sure but he was certain he didn’t like it.

            Finishing off the bowl in front of him, Goku set aside the flatware and a moment later, Vegeta did the same. The light tingling from the sensors in his mouth flared once then twice and when the man cried out, “I have it all! What an amazing feat!” Goku and Vegeta lost no time in prying the equipment from the inside of their mouths and peeling them off their skin.

            The man’s downtrodden face lasted a moment before he recovered, “Thank you. Now, if we can have Gohan come in here, I promise I’ll be swift and—“

            “My son is sick.” Goku spoke simply as he stood. “The sensors and wires and stuff can be moved; you’re going to him.”

            “It would really be better to have him in here. I have access to my equipment and my—“

            Goku walked over and lifted the entire desk—screen, laptops, sensors, wires and all with his right hand. He leaned over, put his face less than an inch from the man and drew his lips back. They were usually barely noticeable but it was impossible to miss Saiyan fangs when they were right in front of your face.

            “We. Go. To. Him.”

            “…I’ll get the door.”

OOO

            “I’ve got ya.”

            Gohan probably should have been comforted by the statement but currently, being hunched over the basin by the bed, he found he did not have the energy to do it. He was grateful for his father holding him firm and his mother gently pushing his hair out of his face.

            He’d lasted two bites.

            ChiChi set her sharp eyes on the doctor who was feverishly typing on his keyboard. “Is that enough? I ain’t gonna make him do that again, hear me?!”

            “No, no, no.” The man promised, waving his hands in what he felt was a symbol of peace. “It will not be necessary. I am merely comparing my data. I promise you, nothing else.”

            That seemed to calm the sharp fire in her voice and she returned to her task of tending her son. His heaving finally stopped and she took the opportunity to push her lips to his sweaty forehead. He didn’t protest, likely didn’t have the strength to.

            Goku gently eased his son back into the bed, wetting another cloth and setting it on his head. “You did really good, Gohan.”

            “Thanks, Dad. I just hope it helps…” He closed his eyes, laid his hands on his stomach and bit his lip to stop another moan. He had already been forced into another vomiting session and by plain broth no less. He would not embarrass himself by whimpering.

            ChiChi took her position at the head of the bed, gently eased her son’s head into her lap and softly began to stroke his hair. “My strong boy. You did well, you did so well.”

            Goku took his spot on the side of the bed and reached over, stroking Gohan’s tail. It was an old trick, one that they had used when Gohan was a toddler. The tail was sensitive and having it rubbed and stroked, always invoked sleep.

            It did not fail them here. While Gohan was stubborn and he fought, the dimness of the lights, the feeling of his mother’s soft voice and his father’s comforting baritone combined with the gentleness of the tail massage brought sleep far faster than it should have.

            Goku, rather than standing, reached over and pulled Goten’s bed closer, effectively sandwiching himself and ChiChi between their two sons. Bulma said nothing and Vegeta hovered near the doctor’s research station, practically burning threats into the man with his eyes.

            Thus began the longest aspect of any research.

            The waiting.

            Bulma was used to waiting; being a scientist, it was a necessity. This waiting though was different. She didn’t have numerous scenarios of great results or potential inventions flooding her mind. She had thoughts of her son, who was currently curled into fetal position and half crying, half whimpering, dying without her being able to stop it.

            ChiChi was an expert at waiting. She had learned it early on in her marriage; Goku was going to go train. It was simply a fact of life. She had waited, literally, seven years for him after Cell. The waiting sometimes was hard and it hurt and she had cried but this waiting made her afraid. It was like the morning of the Cell Games all over again—dreading, fearing and knowing her terror was justified and being helpless to change it.

            Vegeta, well, he had never been an overly patient person, at least not as much as he let anyone see. As a child, before Freeza had come and torn everything apart, he had actually learned quite a bit about waiting from his father. Warrior race or not, diplomacy could be a necessity. It was something Vegeta still relied on, occasionally, though he had found most opponents responded much better to a fist through the chest.

            Then there was Goku. The last person anyone would think would have patience. After all, he would get antsy so easily. Yet, he could also sit in the forest, dead still for hours and just drink in the energy of the world around him. He had sat there and listened to Goten babble about what each kid at his school smelled like and wore and ate for a good several hours. He would lie on the grass outside with Gohan and the two would star gaze with nary anything to entertain them save one another’s company and be totally content.

            This was so different.

            Each tap of the man’s fingers on that keyboard made Goku wince.

            Each low ‘hmm’ made Vegeta bit down a caustic demand to inform them what was going on.

            Each time he rose to get paper or files or to call one of his assistants, Bulma would stiffen and ChiChi would hold her breath.

            Finally, after more minutes and hours than anyone cared to recall, the man closed his laptop. “This is unprecedented.”

            Goku blinked. “Uh…what?”

            Bulma demanded, “Don’t tell us that, just tell us what it is!”

            “Well, that’s a bit of an issue, Mrs. Briefs.” The doctor looked from parent to parent, nervously. “I still cannot isolate what is causing it but I can tell you that from the comparisons I am getting, whatever it is, is silencing genes.”

            Standing like a bullet shot from a gun, Bulma demanded, “What?”

            “That is the only explanation I can find. Your husband is correct; the Saiyan body appears to be a master of adaption. Whatever this…illness is…it’s turning their bodies against them. It’s turning off genes that help them process food, help them digest and then leaving others on. Then, almost just as quickly, the genes it turned off are reactivating and new ones are shutting off.” He frowned. “It’s almost…deliberate.”

            “How so?” Vegeta’s voice, while cold and hard, was more inquisitive than anything else.

            “Well, take the digestion.” The man offered. “The genes that activate early saliva production and preparation at smell are still working fine. When I ran the tests on you and Mr. Son, I found that you Saiyans coat your food in a special enzyme before it even leaves your mouth. That enzyme triggers the body to absorb much faster and much more than a human would. The gene that produces that enzyme is turned off right now. But, every time your sons try to eat, after the body rejects the food because it lacks the enzyme, that gene turns back on once they’ve vomited up any nutrients they might have had and the body is…essentially…trying to eat itself.” He rubbed his temples. “I cannot make hide nor hair of it.”

            ChiChi felt her heart race “Something is playin’ with these genes and making their own bodies their enemy?”

            “That is a very simplistic interpretation but yes. And it is not a fast method. It is slow, measured—“

            “It’s making them suffer.” Vegeta spoke very clearly, sharply. “Whatever this bastard illness, engineered disease is, it is designed to make them suffer.”

            Bulma spoke out, “So now what? You said you still can’t find anything causing it? Nothing? No nanobots, no genetic mutation, nothing?”

            He lowered his head, “I..am truly sorry but there is nothing to find.”

            Rather than crumble as ChiChi looked close to doing, Bulma shifted right to Goku, “So, it has to be somethin’ ki-related then. If the doctors can’t find it then we…Goku?”

            The Saiyan had not said a word and was just watching his son sleep. He looked from Gohan to Goten and back again. “So…they’re going to starve?” It was ChiChi that spoke out for her husband. “You can’t make those genes turn back on?”

            “It’s not that simple.”

            “Hey Doc.” It was Goku now, calm, oddly and still. “You said that Saiyan bodies make that…enie?”

            “Enzyme.” He provided. “Yes. It seems to be a coating that allows the body to absorb and process the nutrients. Looks like it’s created in the mouth when you begin to chew or move food about and—“

            Out of nowhere, Goku reached out, took one of the stale pieces of bread sitting on the many trays that had been carried in here and bit into it, hard and fast. He chewed and gnawled and after a moment, Vegeta suddenly rushed to do the same.

            There was no sound outside of the chewing and grinding of teeth.

            Goku pulled Gohan up, just a bit and gently patted his cheek. Gohan, ever obedient, opened his eyes, “Dad?”

            Goku reached into his mouth, removed the partially chewed bread and pushed it into his son’s mouth.

            Bulma covered her mouth in disgust and ChiChi turned slightly green.

            Vegeta, though less kind about it than Goku (okay, a ‘Wake up, boy. Eat!’) was probably kind for him and did the same thing with Trunks.

            If the boys were disgusted by it, they didn’t show it. Maybe too much shock but…

            When they swallowed, it stayed down.

            Goku eyed the doctor. “If my sons’ bodies can’t do it, then I’ll do it for them.” He turned to his wife, “I think that ki thing is our best bet. ChiChi, we need to get Piccolo.”