Waking up from being knocked out always hurt, Goku had learned over the years. It didn’t matter if you were alive or dead, Super Saiyan or normal state. Being hit so hard that you blacked out always had repercussions. As reality slowly wavered back into being, Goku blinked his eyes open on an empty field.
Not surprising. Vegeta was never one to hang around for long. He did his damage and then left. Ruffling his brow into a scoff at the sleazy move Vegeta had pulled—the empty senzu bag to his side was proof of that---Goku stood, dusting himself off as best he could.
There would be time to deal with Vegeta later, though it might have to be given over to one of the others given his time limit, but as he scanned the landscape, his senses immediately picked up on one specific ki.
“I can still sense Buu…”
Maybe that shouldn’t have surprised him. It really didn’t, if he was going to be completely honest. It was one of those situations where if he’d not felt the ki, it would have been more of an anomaly. Buu’s power was really something else altogether. If he’d been able to stay on Earth, maybe he would have been excited but no…not with that kind of power.
“I can’t sense Vegeta.”
Goku closed his eyes, focused. He knew all too well that Vegeta could suppress his power if he were so inclined but no one could entirely erase their power. He could feel it if the Saiyan Prince was nearby. So, he relaxed, cleared his mind, focused.
Had Vegeta tried to take Buu out? It didn’t seem possible but Goku wasn’t a fool. Vegeta may have let Babidi manipulate him because he was so caught up in his own pride but there was good in that stubborn Saiyan. If he thought there was no other way, then he wouldn’t have hesitated.
More than that though, Goku felt his skin go clammy at what else he didn’t feel.
“…I can’t feel Gohan either.”
No. No, no, no, no, no. That was impossible. Utterly impossible. His son was just fine. Worn out maybe, winded and probably more than a little agitated at all this chaos sucking up his father’s day on earth but he was fine.
Goku closed his eyes again and reached out with his ki.
Spread as far as you can, he coached himself. Who knows where Gohan went. He’s a smart kid. If Vegeta couldn’t take out Buu then he would have regrouped, gathered the others, tried to create a plan of some sort.
Yes, yes, that was his smart Gohan.
“No.” Goku spoke it aloud this time and despite his body all but screaming at him, muscles insisting on rest, he pulled more power from the depth of his bones. It wasn’t much but it was enough to slip his hair back into gold and his eyes to turquoise. He could feel it flickering; the state wasn’t stable right now, not with as battered as he was.
He reached out with his Super Saiyan ki, urging it beyond the abilities he had in his normal state. Searching ,seeking, digging under other kis, pushing others away, seeking until it pushed beyond the edges of the planet itself.
All to come back empty.
Weakness took him and not in a way he was used to. This wasn’t the weariness from the end of a battle, though he certainly had that in spades. This wasn’t the sluggishness of lack of food or little sleep. It wasn’t even the sickly nausea that came from losing too much blood. He’d felt all those and he knew what they felt like.
This was deeper.
He had a body but he didn’t really have a heartbeat or lungs or anything like that. Not while he was dead. The halo deemed all that stuff unnecessary.
Yet, now, realizing his son’s ki was gone -- by all that mattered that could only mean one thing—the pain that suddenly rippled through him came from the soul itself. He felt his nonexistent lungs grow cold and stiff. They refused to pull in air and he sank back to his knees, trying to find purchase in the air. Trying to fill his body with breath that he didn’t even NEED but it was beyond his reach and he was suffocating.
His absent heart felt like fire, pounding in his chest. His ribs that were no longer there shuddered under the pressure and it was like a fist being pushed through flesh and squeezing around his center most point until it popped and bled. Over and over, no reprieve.
He didn’t recognize his own voice. It was his but not his. Robbed of its usual timbre and shaking with unshed tears. His hands trembled, dug new canals in the loose dirt and rocks underneath him. It burned when it came out of his throat.
His son…his first son…the boy he had taken from ChiChi with trembling arms after he came into the world. He had not believed it at first and still sometimes had a hard time comprehending that he had helped create such a thing.
The infant he used to pace with while ChiChi tried to get some sleep and found out that stroking his tail was a fairly effective sleep aid. The boy would yawn with that toothless grin and curl that tail around Goku’s wrist. Sometimes, Goku would let him chew and gum on his finger.
The little boy that used to crawl into bed with him and wedge himself between husband and wife, claiming the monsters of his dreams would never come into his parents’ room. He would nuzzle against Goku’s neck and his hair would always tickle and even though he was far too old for it, Goku would occasionally give the toddler his old pacifier. ChiChi would give him a scoff in the morning and make a remark about how it would make his teeth crooked but she’d always smile and leave him be aside from her verbal threats.
The battered child that had still managed to smile at him, as broken as their battle against Vegeta had made them. The way he’d refused to leave Goku’s side and said over and over ‘are you going to be okay, Daddy? We’ll fix you up, Daddy, we will!’
The boy that had sobbed and cried into his pillow when he thought Goku couldn’t hear, pleading for Piccolo, for Tien, for Yamcha, for Tien to forgive him. The same boy finally calmed when Goku said the hell with his restraints and pulled him onto his chest and yes, yes, Gohan was still allowed to suck his thumb!
The child that had stood taller than his five years should have allowed against a monster that made grown warriors tremble. Goku had smelled the fear on him but all Gohan had said was that they had to stop Freeza and he wasn’t going to stand by and do nothing. Even when Goku raised his voice at him to leave—the first time the Saiyan ever remembered having to do so—it took him two more times before the boy finally went. He never remembered being so frustrated at someone being brave as he was that day.
The boy that had grinned and clung to him so tightly when he finally made his way home from Yardrat. Amid all the talk with Trunks, it was a stark reminder of how long he had been gone—since when could his son reach his waist? Surely he had only been a little past his knee when they last parted ways. Yet that night, Gohan with cheeks aflame had asked if he was too big for Goku to hold in their chair like they used to those days before Raditz came. Maybe he was too old or too big but Goku didn’t care and held him there long after the boy fell asleep.
The boy that would bring him in a tray laden with burnt toast and jelly that was more whole berry than jam but sheepishly ask if it was okay. Goku had an iron clad stomach and he would gladly swallow piece after piece of toast that nearly chipped his teeth if it would make that child smile---which he did, bright as a star.
The boy that grinned and jumped for joy when they managed to snag a free day to go fishing. He’d run ahead of Goku, proclaiming he’d gotten “so good” at fishing and to just watch how many fish he could capture. Goku, despite being much faster than his son, would always let him win, always let him find the ‘biggest’ fish.
Hours…hours of training preparing for the Androids. Gohan would sometimes wake up in tears because his muscles ached so badly but he just took it. He let his father tend those pains and always announced he was ready to go again and please, please could they go longer this time because he could take it, he knew he could. So many days he went home carrying a limp and exhausted boy in his arms.
The Time Chamber…easily one of the best years of his life. A whole year where it was just him and Gohan. Training yes, but also laughing, playing, talking. Goku remembered many nights where Gohan curled up next to him, asking for them to talk and eventually admitting he wanted a story from his father, lingering on his every word as it soothed away his unspoken fears.
Then there had been Cell. That battle…as much as Goku had remained calm on the outside, calling his son to fight had made his gut clench. His son could fight, Goku knew he could but still seeing it, feeling his son’s fear and pain. That was not something he ever wanted to experience again. Gohan had been so brave, so strong and choosing not to run back to him after Cell was defeated was the hardest thing Goku had ever done. When Gohan, his little voice seeming to be so much smaller had declared ‘But that doesn’t mean I don’t still need you’ Goku had nearly caved right then. That was why he made his goodbye so short.
Goku didn’t know how long he sat there, just staring at the ground and memory after memory cut through his mind. Each memory, each thought of Gohan made his whole spirit ache. Gohan had grown into such a strong young man, Goku hated that he had missed it. And now, Buu, on this one day when things were supposed to be a simple time, a time to catch up with his family, on this day, Buu had taken Gohan from him.
He took him from me.
It was an odd feeling. The weakness was suddenly gone and in its place was a form of power that Goku had only gotten a glimpse of one other time.
When Krillin had died against Freeza and he slipped into Super Saiyan for the first time.
This was _like_ that but stronger.
Was this what hate felt like? Was this what Vegeta felt like before he softened up? Was this what Vegeta was after? Why would you purposely go after this feeling? It felt like poison. Toxic, ever present poison that flooded the body, invaded the mind and made the heart feel cold.
Goku slammed his fists in to the ground, caving it out from underneath him and seemingly making the whole earth shake. It felt, just for a moment that he was Super Saiyan, Super Saiyan 2 and Super Saiyan 3 all at once and yet not at all. It fluctuated so rapidly that Goku had no idea WHAT his ki was doing and at the moment, he didn’t care.
Not like before. Not like when he powered up or was punched or any other reason. All those could be rounded up in a word of definition. Pain. Disappointment. Sadness. Anger. This scream, this cry was none of those and yet all of them.
The animals nearby scattered like ants amid a wave of water.
Goku’s throat cut and bled and hurt and burned.
It was a hideous sound. A hideous, ugly, horrible sound. One that sounded like it belonged in a horror story, not out of the mouth of a mortal. It was a roar, it was a sob, it was a curse and everything that flowed between all those.
Goku collapsed, laying against the ground, trembling, shaking. His mind seemed to finally simmer and focused and he felt Krillin and Piccolo at the Lookout. He climbed to his feet, barely able to manage it. It was hard to keep their kis in his mind, hard to focus on them when all he was doing, still, was trying to find the one ki that he needed to feel that wasn’t there.
“Gohan…I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”
It took more energy than it should have to call on Krillin and Piccolo’s ki and to instant transmit. Even when he took in the Lookout, he felt…distant. Like, he was watching and experiencing everything through a mist. When Krillin rushed him, he stood and took it but it felt too…it was too much to do much beyond that. He was surprised Krillin and Piccolo had felt his ki as wear y as it was.
“Is Gohan here?” was all he said.
It was a long shot he knew. It was foolish he knew. Even as weak as injuries made ki, he had learned to detect them. He would have felt Gohan. He would have felt him instantly. He would have known. He would have known.
Krillin’s face fell and he shook his head slowly, from side to side.
Piccolo maintaining himself as he always did, was blunt. “Vegeta and Gohan are both dead. Majin Buu saw to that.”
Goku fell to his knees. He knew it and yet hearing it….his son and the word died or dead should never be in the same sentence nor anywhere near the same sentence. He should have been here, rushing to greet his father with a hug.
He should have been smiling.
He should have…
Goku didn’t even really register when Dende approached and started to tending his wounds. He recognized when the pain lessened from his bruises and cuts and gashes but it did nothing for the inner pain. The inner pain, if anything, magnified. All he could think of was Gohan. How he’d been, how he’d looked, how he’d smiled and how he had so many plans for himself. Maybe, at the very back of his mind, he thought about the Dragonballs, but right now, he was too consumed in his emotions to think much on it.
He couldn’t think much on anything. Just his Gohan.
And Majin Buu.
The Majin Buu that had taken his son away.
It was so brief that you would have missed it if you have a half-blink. Goku’s dark eyes went turquoise then aqua, then yellow, then a slight silver shade and for a moment, less than a moment, the color about his eyes went blood red.
It faded so suddenly that only Krillin saw it.
He didn’t need to think much on it though.
Goku was looking out over the Lookout, eyes fixated in the distance where Majin Buu’s ki still rose and rocketed. He said nothing but he didn’t need to say anything. Krillin knew his friend and Krillin knew the danger in that look.
You took my son from me and I’ll have your skin for it.