Disclaimer: Standard ones apply.

Author's Note: I advise you to at least read "Homeward Bound" before this. Reading "Fractured Souls" might be a good idea as well.

Warnings: Alternate universe and angst.

Acknowledgements: You can thank Madoka for catching my errors. ^_^

A Different World

He'd never been in a place such as this before, and if he had any say about it, never would be again. It was a depressing institute of concrete and brick, cold and unyielding with hard lines and rough curves. The instructors were cruel, the food was horrible, and he was often left isolated from other people. He knew the reason for the last, though; it was because he loved Son Gohan.

When he lived with his parents (before they were indicted, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison) he'd been kidnapped by a man who had no mercy for anyone. Life at home had been hell, but at least his parents left him pretty much alone. Cyrus had done nothing of the sort. He had been taken by him to be his personal whore and the eight-year-old boy experienced pain beyond compare. It left him physically weak, mentally weary, and emotionally devastated. Only the care of Gohan kept him away from the brink of despair.

They'd become friends, he and Gohan, and that friendship eventually blossomed into something more. After his parents were imprisoned, he went to live with his aunt Mariko in Tokyo. She was a nice enough woman who fed him good food and gave him warm clothes to wear.

She was also a devout Catholic. By going to church every Sunday, he received a religious education that caused him to think differently about his relationship with Gohan. He loved the younger boy and could not think of being without him, yet there were those who considered that to be wrong. That he just did not understand. God was all about love, right? How was loving another boy so much different from loving a girl?

So involved was he in his inner torment, he accidentally left his most private of thoughts exposed in plain sight. His aunt discovered his journal and, adhering to the belief that a family should hide no secrets from each other, read it from cover to cover. Everything he'd ever felt about Gohan was written in that notebook and, more importantly, everything he wished to happen between the two of them. The news report about CAMI and Gohan's involvement with their disbandment just served to further influence her decision.

Mariko called an uncle of his in Italy, one he'd never even heard of before, and made arrangements for him to live there permanently. The plane ticket was purchased by his wealthy uncle that very afternoon and he had just enough time to inform Gohan of his relocation. There was disbelief, and a lot of tears, but that was to be expected.

So here he was in a place that was only one step away from being a prison. The four white walls of his room were a constant confinement. He was only let out to attend classes, and being social by nature he craved human contact. Talking to himself became quite boring after a while.

"I'm going to go insane before I can even graduate from high school," he muttered to himself as he wrote his thoughts into the letter he was going to send Gohan. "They only let me be around other people during class time and, even then, I'm separated from most of the student population. They have me with the special kids as if I have a mental disorder." He sighed and pressed his hand to his forehead. "I miss you so much."

He could remember his first day of school so clearly, so very clearly. The regular students, or the ones who exhibited perfectly "normal" behavior, recognized the special students on sight and therefore stayed away from them. Even the kids that fit into his own category didn't speak to him. He was isolated both inside and outside of his room.

"Let's move on to you. How are things there? Are you excelling in your studies? I doubt you have any problems in school, Gohan. You're such a smart person. I remember watching you breeze through math homework that usually frustrates me. It was so amazing to watch you do things like that, I'm very proud of you.

"I remember a year ago when you told me that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with me. Before that moment I had no idea that true happiness existed. All of my life I've been treated badly by my parents both mentally and physically. Gohan, you changed my life. You looked deep within my soul and found a part that hadn't acquired my parents' darkness. By nurturing that bright spot with your love and care, its light spread throughout my entire body. I'm forever grateful to you, Gohan, and you will have my love for all of eternity.

"I'm counting down the days until we're able to see each other again. Always yours, Colby."