Just a Nightmare
(Part II: Enter the Nightmare)
Vegeta had to go over the bonding ritual three times before Gohan was satisfied that he learned it correctly. The young man wanted a bond with his wife too much to screw things up. Late one Saturday night, the couple sat crosslegged in a tent in the forest. Pan was spending the night with her grandfathers.
"Are you sure we can do it this way?" Videl asked. "Goku-san and Vegeta-san, Trunks and Goten all bonded under the open sky."
He took one look outside and involuntarily shivered. "Honey, it's freezing out there."
"Maybe we should wait until spring, then. I'm in no hurry..."
Gohan shook his head. "Don't you want something as profound as the bond?"
"Hai, but I can wait." Videl sighed as she saw the pleading look in his eyes. There was no other choice but to give in. "Oh, alright. If it doesn't work, we always have warm weather and full moons."
Her consent unsealed the wellspring of boyish delight that the serious young man often kept covered. Clearing away his thoughts, he sent his senses outward and tried to touch the mind of his wife. There was nothing.
'Maybe I'm just not trying hard enough,' Gohan thought to himself uncertainly. Then he nodded. 'Hai, that's probably it.'
He searched again, this time using all the effort he possessed within his entire being. This time he brushed against something distant, but it was nothing he could link with. 'Her mind... Videl doesn't have access to any psychic abilities.' Before he became depressed about the realization, Gohan quickly moved onward to the next step. 'I can accept a bond without a mental link. Seems sort of intrusive, anyhow.' He knew despite his words that things wouldn't be as good without the connection, but he was definitely willing to settle.
"Videl, you can go first," he told her.
She frowned in puzzlement. "That was step one? I didn't feel a thing."
"Don't worry about that."
"Alright...." The young woman smiled. "You've already heard my speech at our wedding ceremony, but I will repeat them again for the sake of this ritual along with a few additions, of course. Gohan, you are the light of my life. I can't imagine my world without you in it. You've given me seven wonderful years and a beautiful daughter who is so much like the two of us that it makes me smile. If, for some reason, we are unable to spend the rest of our lives together, I will always remember the good times we shared and not long for the ones we hadn't been blessed with. Life is so full of unexpectedness that we must live each day as if it were our last."
Most of her words were familiar, but the new ones were equally as touching as the old.
Gohan didn't have anything prepared. There were always his vows from the wedding, but he wanted to say something unique to fit the mood. "We're two of a kind, Videl. A perfectly mated pair. Without you, I am incomplete." 'Short, but sweet.' He was quite satisfied with himself to say the least.
The third, and final, part of the bonding ritual made him blush just by thinking about it. Of course, it wasn't as if he hadn't ever done something like it before (their honeymoon had been fantastic), but a ritual-related joining seemed more intense somehow.
He moved to embrace Videl just as she held up a hand to stop him. "Wait a minute, Gohan. There's something we should talk about first."
"Um, what is it?" he asked, seriously confused.
"I was under the impression that we were going to bond, Gohan. You convinced me that you knew what you were doing. I feel absolutely nothing. Why is that?" Her dark eyes were narrowed and her hands were perched upon her hips.
Chuckling with nervousness, he searched for an explanation that didn't make either of them look bad. "Well, I couldn't form a connection with you, hon. It's not really a big deal. We went a long time without even knowing of the bond's existence...."
"That was before!" she practically shouted. "Now that I know what's out there, I can't be content with a basic relationship."
"You didn't say that before..."
"I was lying before!"
His heart began to beat faster. "W-what are you saying?"
"Gohan, I want a divorce!"
He awoke drenched in sweat, a hoarse cry lodged in his throat. For a moment he stared blankly at his surroundings, but soon he could make out the familiar sight of the bedroom he shared with his wife. Videl was sleeping peacefully beside him, completely unaffected by his restlessness. "It was just a nightmare," he sighed in relief. "Thank Kami."
After trying for an hour to return to sleep (and failing), Gohan wandered into the kitchen and made himself a snack. Granted, "snack" isn't what you'd usually call five sandwiches and a pot of tomato soup, but he wasn't an ordinary man. It would have been more but Gohan didn't want to get too full. If he skipped breakfast, Videl would know that something was wrong.
What in the world was his subconscious trying to tell him, anyway? That the bond had no chance of working? Gohan knew, because he was only demi-Saiya-jin, that a link would take tremendous effort unless Videl met him halfway. Trunks and Goten's minds had touched in the middle, each exerting himself no more than he should have had to.
His wife had no psychic ability that he was aware of. In fact, it was an overall rarity in the ningen race. He was just unable to link with an unresponsive mind. Even after coming to this conclusion, Gohan wondered if it would have worked if he'd been born a full Saiya-jin. Did the pure-blooded have an overabundance of psychic ability?
"Iie," he said aloud firmly. "I refuse to let a dream affect me this much. It was a nightmare and nothing more." In fact, he would sent Pan over to the Capsule Corporation and they would undergo the bonding ritual that very night.
Gohan's mind was miles away and all those he came across could plainly see it. He made careless mistakes with the paperwork of several accounts and nearly lost the company a few clients. His boss was being pressured by the higher-ups to do something about the sudden flood of complaints, so she stopped by Gohan's office to have a word with him.
"You're off your game, Son," she said bluntly as soon as he'd answered her knock, "and we're close to losing a few major accounts because of that. How long are you going to screw up? Please tell me this is just a one-day-only type of thing."
He wondered for a moment if he should tell her, but then it passed. "You wouldn't understand, Daimoto-sama. Believe me."
The woman shrugged. "Very well. I'm going to let you off for the remainder of the day to fix whatever is going on. Don't do this again on Monday or the board's probably going to make me fire you. Do we have an understanding?"
"Hai, Daimoto-sama. My mind will be on my work after this weekend." Knowing how bad he'd screwed up, Gohan was both relieved and surprised that he still had a job.
Her brown eyes narrowed, but his boss nodded. "Good. Make sure you keep that promise."
As he was driving home that afternoon, Gohan found himself remembering the joy he and Videl had shared in their seven years of marriage. It was enough before... why wasn't it enough now?
"Because I've seen perfection and covet it for myself," he whispered. "I don't think I can be happy with anything less from now on."
"Papa," Bra said immediately upon entering the room. Vegeta was doing item number five on the "Top Ten Most Un-Vegeta-Like Things" list: reading. She didn't even wait for him to place a bookmark between the pages, she was so apprehensive. "Remember a few days ago when I asked you did you think there would be more bad guys?"
"Hai," he answered as he pulled her onto his lap. Bra immediately clung to him like a limpet. "Remember when I told you that both Kakarotto and I would die to protect you?"
Making a face, she nodded. "You don't have to be so morbid about it, you know."
The ouji shook his head with a small smile. "Death is a natural part of life, Bra-chan. It comes to all things eventually."
"I know, but you don't have to talk about it making an early visit. Especially when I'm really close to freaking out." The little girl sighed. "My fear is irrational, I think, but how do I get it to go away?"
"First off, where do you get your words from? Second, when your mind realizes that you're safe, then you'll stop worrying."
Bra smiled for the first time in days. "It's the "Word of the Day" toilet paper. Makes anyone sound like a genius." She slid down to the floor and fixed him with a hard gaze for a moment. "I'm taking you at your word, Papa. If you're wrong..."
"Trust me, okay? I should have the whole "fight to win" thing down perfectly by now."
" 'kay, Papa! Ja ne!" She hugged him quickly and ran off to her room to play a game with Pan.
Bra's anxiety was starting to affect Vegeta in the very worst way. He knew that there was very little he had to fear, but that didn't stop the thoughts from invading his mind. What if the worse happened and he died? He didn't want to orphan Bra and definitely didn't want to devastate Goku. His daughter would eventually be able to handle the loss of him.... his mate would not. 'There is too much for him to live for and the bonding withdrawal would drive him to suicide.'
The ringing of the phone drew him out of his thoughts. "Moshi moshi."
"It didn't work, Vegeta." The anger that filled his voice nearly made the ouji cringe.
"I didn't think it would. "Maybe" was the operative word in my previous sentence. Your hopes were too high." Vegeta then held the phone away from his sensitive ears in preparation for the shouting he knew would come.
"I'M JUST AS GOOD AS THE FOUR OF YOU, IT SHOULD HAVE WORKED!"
He sighed. "I taught you the ritual against my better judgment. There was only a slight chance the bond would have formed. If Videl had psychic powers, or she develops them somehow, it would probably work."
There was a brief pause. "Could I wish for her to have them? Would Shenron grant it?"
"I don't..." He trailed off with the knot in his stomach grew worse. "Don't use the dragonballs for anything!"
"We may need them for something more important than a mental power for your wife." Then he winced when he realized how bad his words sounded. He'd been thinking it inside his head, but that didn't mean his thoughts had to make an exit through his mouth.
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST SAY?!"
"Damn," he muttered to himself. "Now he's back to yelling again." Vegeta had no idea how to calm the young man down, so did the first thing that came to mind: he hung up on him. "Hopefully he'll wait until tomorrow to come over here."
"Hopefully who will wait until tomorrow?" Goku asked as he entered the bedroom.
Vegeta smiled innocently.... or as innocently as he could manage, anyway. "Oh, no one."
His mate smirked. "I can read your mind, you know." Then he concentrated slightly and his eyes widened. "You insulted Videl and hung up on my son?!"
"Purely accidental!" he protested. "At least, the insult was. I really don't think what he wants is important enough to use a wish for. The boy should be content with what he has."
"I know 'geta, but did you really have to make him mad then hang up on him?" Goku shook his head with a sigh. "Gohan's going to come over here yelling in the morning." He looked at Vegeta with a smile. "Unless you apologize now."
The ouji snorted. "Won't matter what I do or say to him tonight. It's too late. Prepare yourself for a round of screaming and profanity because I can give just as good as I get." He reopened the book and found his place.
Goku looked upward with an frustrated expression on his face. "Why can't my family just get along?"
"The ceiling can't answer you, Kakarotto. Believing it can is probably a sign of insanity."
Vegeta smiled to himself. "You gotta love us, ne?"
The mortal plane had changed very much in the time he'd spent locked away. Before, there had be only one strong enough to defeat him.... now there were five. Killing mass amounts of people would attract attention and then the saviors would come running. Something had to be done to prevent them from answering the death-cries of the fallen... and that something would come in the simple form of a bad dream.
Nightmares held power over people both in and out of slumber. Asleep, the assault of negativity caused your heart rate to rise, your skin to sweat, and sounds of terror to be ripped from your throat. Awake, it weighed heavily on your mind as you went about your day, continuing its worrisome work and keeping you wide-awake for sometimes days on end.
Are there monsters underneath the bed? In the closet? Is the bogeyman out to get me? These are the things a child's subconscious supplies, but an adult mind is usually not bothered by such trivial matters. The secret fears of a man or woman were often far greater emotional burdens.
And there were many to be found within the minds Chikyuu's strongest defenders.
Nightmare smiled to himself as he looked down upon the Capsule Corporation from the roof of a neighboring building. "I will, at last, have my fun."