Disclaimer, in case it wasn't obvious. I don't own Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, or really any other property. Thank you.

The Long Road

Chapter 2: The Son Who Never Was

"Gohan."

The struggled word escaped the lips of the dying saiyan, if only barely.

To Goku it'd been more like an explosion than the whisper it was to anyone else. It was a name that held too much meaning. It was love, regret, fear, hope and despair, all wrapped into a single name whenever uttered. But now it was whispered in the dying lips of a young man, perhaps 16, at most 18 years old, who'd come from the sky to kill everyone on this world. The very world that made him was to be turned into a mass grave by him.

But there was a pain at the word being said now, a real, sharp pain in Goku's chest at the realization of complete failure. There was little doubt as to who this was. This was his son, the boy who once enjoyed running, learning new things almost all the time, and was next to inseparable from his mother. The boy who'd been utterly terrified of fighting and violence, now was a man who lived in the very essence of selfish bloodlust. Something really, truly broke for Goku in that moment, and it was his heart.

Slowly, his hair shifted back to black, walking towards the downed and shallowly breathing body. Kneeling down next to it, the greatest saviour the world had known so far looked at the damaged body of this saiyan.

I'm sorry I failed you Gohan. I should have been able to stop Raditz. I should have been able to find you. I've failed you your whole life.

The sad pang made Goku place his hand on the unconscious teenager's shoulder. It'd been nearly 13 years since he'd last really had contact with his son until this night, and the first thing he'd done was break his shoulder, bust his ribs, and several damage his head. There wasn't much time to dwell anymore, he had to get him help before he expired. A hospital wasn't going to be helpful.

The Lookout.

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Goku, the saiyan once known as Kakarot, found himself inside his own home, holding the bloody and shredded body of his son Gohan in his arms. Blood was dripping from him still, though much of it had dried and scabbed.

Chi-Chi is going to kill me when she finds this on the carpet.

It hadn't taken long to be told by Dende that Gohan had been 'unwelcome' on the Lookout, because the Namekian Guardian had detected the 'dark, evil cancer eating away at him' and 'was a threat to the earth'. There was no healing to be found there. To say Goku had been disappointed would be a gross understatement, but he understood some of it. It was Dende's job to defend the planet.

Next he tried Korin's, who'd thankfully been more responsive, the cat was more than happy to help...

Once he'd grown a new batch of Senzu beans. It was inconvenient timing, he promised Goku a bean within a week. The real problem was, Gohan didn't really have a week unless he got him help right away.

And that help was being found at home.

When he'd gone to confront this new invader, the new power that threatened a city not far from where he lived, Satan City to be specific, it'd been just after dinner. Now? It was nearly midnight. Everyone was supposed to be in bed.

I've always been terrible at wrapping bandages. Shoot, I'll need to-

The lights flicked on as Chi-Chi walked out, her hair was down and she was wrapping herself in a kimono, about to ask Goku what he was doing at midnight.

Then the scream came.

"Chi-Chi! Please! You'll wake Goten!"

The petrified woman stood there, looking at the filthy, bloody body in Goku's arms, and then immediately looking back up to her husband.

"W-what are you doing bringing him in here!? Send him to the Lookout! Send him to a hospital! You're getting blood all over the floor Goku!"

There was an edge of panic in the voice Goku detected before he shook his head to her.

"Please, please calm down, I don't want Goten to-"

There was a yawn from Goten as he emerged behind Chi-Chi. The five year old was rubbing the sleep from his eyes when he noticed his father.

"Dad, what are you doing home so late-" The boy stopped when he saw the brutalized Gohan. "Wow!"

"Go back to bed!" Chi-Chi and Goku announced together.

"But mom, dad you've got a-"

"NOW!" the announcement once more came in unison.

It wasn't often Goten was ever yelled at, least of all by his father so seriously. The little saiyan hurried back to his room, but two curious eyes tried to peak from the slit in his door.

Goku was quickly realizing how much of a mess this was becoming. This really wasn't something he wanted to deal with until the morning, where he had time to try to explain things to Chi-Chi calmly, or, well, as close to calmly as he could. Instead now he would have to give a rushed, improvised explanation.

"We have to get him cleaned up, and we'll need to get some disinfectant." Goku tried to start.

"What? No, we're not going to. I told you, Lookout or-"

"I tried those already, Chi-Chi. If we don't act fast he's going to die!"

Walking further into the house, sidestepping past Chi-Chi, he moved to the bathroom. He could feel Chi-Chi following, her pace now angry.

"I will not have this in my house right now Goku! Go to Capsule Corporation! Anywhere but our house! The only place we have to put him is Gohan's room and I-"

Goku gave her a serious look in response, the kind of look he'd only given Chi-Chi once or twice in his life. Chi-Chi always dominated the relationship, and Goku either passively tried to change things, or just went along with whatever Chi-Chi wanted. This was one of the few times where that wasn't going to happen, and now he could see on Chi-Chi's face, she knew it.

Drawing water from the bath, Goku began to try and wash the mud away from the open wounds on his son's body, reluctantly Chi-Chi walked in with their rather substantial medical kit.

"We're going to have to bandage his wounds and try to set his bones." His wife said. "And then you're going to tell me everything that just happened."

It took all night to try and get the unconscious and exhausted saiyan in a state where they could finally carefully place him in, ironically, his room. Half of his face was bandaged over from where Goku had punched him, his ribs were wrapped, his right shoulder had been almost cast and heavily set in place by a rod propped against his arm and chest, and his legs wounds were covered. They'd given him a spare set of Goku's boxers to wear for the time being.

Once Goku placed him down, much as he had in his unconscious state, the teenager's face seemed to show signs of discomfort at being moved.

"So what happened Goku, out with it. Why is this man in our son's bed. Who is he?"

"I found him about to destroy Satan City, we fought. He begged for mercy from me." Goku said simply, not wanting to answer the last part yet.

His own body language was protective, he was sitting next to Gohan, trying to as if shield him from further harm.

"And you gave it?"

"Not at first."

The room went silent. Goku, after Raditz, Nappa, Frieza, Cell, had found that he did offer mercy still, but not as he once did. That beast he'd fought at Satan City was a monster, but now he was his son. The moment he had saved him, was the moment the name had been revealed. Even now, Goku's guilt could not be shed, even in his body language.

"Who is this, Goku?"

Just as she asked, somehow Chi-Chi's eyes were drawn to the fuzzy brown tail now hanging to the boy's side off the bed.

"His name is Gohan."

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"His name is Gohan."

The words didn't seem to be real. She couldn't move, she couldn't speak once Goku did. The only thing she could do was gaze at the boy laying on her son's bed. How could he be her Gohan? Gohan had tiny hands, an innocent smile, and was so alive. This boy had the look of a scarred animal. They'd seen every inch of him while they were trying to get him bandaged, and there were not many places to not find the hints of terrible injuries, from his face to his foot.

My poor Gohan, what have they done to you?

It was painful, with every passing breath from her body it became harder to breathe. Her heart ached for every moment lost, every moment her son was gone. But here he was, in his bed, where he was supposed to be. It was just thirteen years too late.

A careful step was made by her, instinctively her right hand moving to her chest, as if to check if her heart was beating. This was too terrible to be a dream, yet too relieving to be a nightmare. It was a terrible compromise between her dreams and nightmares.

"Chi-Chi?" Goku finally asked, sounding concerned.

Without responding, Chi-Chi sat down on the other side of the bed, on Gohan's left. Carefully she took the teenager's hand and quietly her it, checking his pulse as her eyes stared down at him. She could feel her eyes beginning to fill with hot tears. Her voice became increasingly hard to use without letting a sob escape instead.

"This is him?" Finally she asked, her throat tightening.

"His name is Gohan." Goku responded. "... Chi-Chi. I. I don't think he'll recognize you."

Finally a sob escaped Chi-Chi as her grip on his hand tightened. How could he not recognize his own mother? He had been her whole world, her little scholar-to-be. Her vision started to blur as the tears began to spill over her cheeks.

I'm so sorry Gohan. I shouldn't have let you leave.

"Of course he'll recognize me." She said between sobs. "I'm his mother."

Moving a hand up to trace the vicious scar on the left side of his face, all of her emotion poured into sympathy for this poor creature in front of her.

Who could give such a terrible wound to a child? Why? What could have he done so wrong?

She could see how old the scar was despite its depth of colour, it'd grown with him throughout his life. She could imagine her baby barely a day older than the last time she saw him, bleeding from his face while screaming out for help. Another choked sound escaped her, before she finally pulled her hand away, covering her mouth.

"Chi-Chi, maybe you should get some sleep?" Goku finally asked. "Or try to, we can wait for Gohan to wake up and-"

"I will not leave my son! Don't ask me to do that!"

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"I will not leave my son! Don't ask me to do that!"

It was a fair. How could he tell Chi-Chi to leave the son they'd not seen in over 13 years. But the only thing more painful than finding out he'd nearly killed his own son, or that his son was a murderer, was that Chi-Chi was crying in front of him, fighting to keep her composure. Her pain was emanating from her, years of grief coming out all at once.

Quietly, Goku stood up, walking around the bed to where Chi-Chi was, placing his hands on her shoulders.

"We'll figure everything out." He promised.

I have no idea how, because I have no idea what he'll do once he's awake.

"But please, Chi-"

"No!"

Just as Chi-Chi had discovered earlier to not pass certain boundaries, Goku found the barrier that he knew he couldn't push past. She wasn't going to leave this spot until she saw her son open his eyes, and even then it was going to be a while after that he was sure. But what Goku feared most was when she realized that Gohan didn't recognize her, just as he hadn't recognized him. Chi-Chi was so convinced that she would be instantly recognized that it hurt him to know how disappointed she'd be.

"Alright. We'll stay here until he wakes up."

Me especially, I don't think he's in much of a condition to do anything, but even with just his left arm I hate to think of what he could do to Chi-Chi.

Slowly moving his hands from Chi-Chi's shoulders, Goku walked out of the room. When he returned, he had two chairs.

"Here." He said, sliding one next to Gohan's bed for Chi-Chi. Placing his own chair against a wall a bit further away, Goku sat back.

Gohan's energy level was stunningly low right now, he must have been completely exhausted, and that was before blood loss was factored in.

Who knows how long he's going to be out for?

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The Morning:

Light breached the room as the sun finally edged over the mountains and forests around them. Inside the sleeping three bodies could be seen. Goku had dozed off hours ago, and Chi-Chi much more recently.

Slowly, one eye opened to the world, its black centre trying to discover where it was. One thing was for certain, everything hurt.

Where am I?

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A/N: Well, it looks like next chapter we'll get to see Gohan all awake.

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Thanks to everyone who has reviewed so far of course. I appreciate any and all feedback.