Pan cleared the dishes from the table. She and Chichi had just finished eating dinner by themselves. Bulma and Trunks had decided to let them have some time alone, and ducked out of the invitation, declaring that they were getting behind in the house work. As transparent as that reason was, Pan was grateful to them.
She stifled a burp and grinned. Chichi was a great cook and she knew exactly how much Saiyajins ate. She had clucked when Pan had explained that she was only one-third, saying that Saiyajin blood was Saiyajin blood. She was right and the food was delicious. Or maybe it was just because Chichi had cooked the food.
Pan couldn't believe her good luck. Two months ago, she was stumbling down the streets searching for Trunks. Now, she had found her grandmother, her father, and friends. She stared at her grandmother's back as she washed the dishes and hummed. It could all disappear so quickly. She learned that lesson young.
Chichi was startled when she felt Pan's arms go around her without warning. She chuckled softly. Pan kissed her and rested her cheek on her shoulder. She loved this woman so much that it hurt. It nearly killed her to leave Chichi by herself in the cottage.
"Grandma," she said, "can I live with you?"
Chichi felt like crying again, but she kept her tears in check. The reason Pan hadn't moved in yet was because they both knew they needed time to get used to the idea that they finally weren't alone in the world.
"I was going to ask you that later, dear. I would love to have you here with me. It's been so lonely without Gohan." She turned around and cuddled her granddaughter as if she was only a little girl. "Once upon a time, this house had been filled with people. Bursting at the seams almost."
Chichi's eyes took on a faraway look. "Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Krillin, Yamcha, Tenshinhan, Chao-Tzu, Bulma, and even that dirty old man Kamesennin came here regularly. Sometimes to just raid my fridge, other times to play their games." Her smile was shaky. "I used to yell at the lot of them when they messed up my clean house, but now I miss it. I would do anything to get them all back."
"I wish I had known them."
"Trunks didn't meet them in this world, but he met them when he went back in time."
Pan wondered if her grandmother was starting to get senile. "I don't understand," she said uncertainly.
"He didn't tell you? Trunks saved your grandfather from dying from his heart disease on the pretense of saving our world." Chichi's mouth twisted bitterly. "But instead he created another timeline where everyone lives happily ever after."
"He didn't tell me," Pan said flatly. "How did he go back?"
"A time machine."
Chichi studied Pan's face and knew what she was thinking. "I think he destroyed it."
Pan nodded. She kissed Chichi's cheek. "I'll be back later, Grandma."
She ran out the door and leaped into the sky towards Capsule Corp. HQ.
"Where's the time machine?" Pan demanded, landing heavily in front of Trunks. He had been on his way to another shopping trip and was halfway to the skycar when she found him.
"So, Chichi told you about my little trip," he said carefully.
"Yes, she did. I want to go back and meet my father. Where's the time machine?" she repeated. In her desperation, she had grabbed the lapels of his jacket and pushed her face close to his. By reflex alone, Trunks had leaned backwards, putting some space between them.
"I destroyed it after I came back. I didn't want anyone else to find it and use it," he replied coolly.
"NO!" Pan yelled, shaking him. "You have to rebuild it. You have to!!"
Trunks put his hands on her arms, holding her still. He stared hard into her eyes. "I can't do that. We can't go back anymore, Pan."
"Why not?" she demanded. "I'm not trying to change anything. I just want to meet him."
"What if there is no Pan in that world? What if Gohan never met Videl? We don't want to compromise the life he has," Trunks explained as gently as he could. "I know I went back and changed things between my parents in that time, but I had to because lives were at stake."
"Bullshit!!" Pan exclaimed, shrugging his hands off. "Who says we have to tell him that I'm his daughter? They know you. You can just say I'm your wife or something and I wanted to meet your father. Something like that."
Trunks tried not to let her change his thinking, because she was starting to reach him. But he heard the broken note in her voice. Even though she had met Chichi, she still needed to meet Gohan. He remembered when he had met Vegeta. He would never forget any of the times he had spoken or looked at his father. How could he begrudge her that?
Pan could see that she had reached Trunks. She smiled faintly. He met her eyes, and she expected to see reluctant agreement. Instead she saw firm refusal. Not only were the plans and the original time machine lost to them, Trunks had vowed to never return there. He couldn't even begin to count how many times he'd been tempted to ask his mother to rebuild the time machine so that he could just have a short conversation with his father, or Goku. But he didn't. He couldn't butt into their lives again, and he didn't need to be reminded of how things could have been. He didn't want Pan to go through the personal hell that he'd been through.
"We can't do it, Pan," he said, shaking his head sorrowfully.
He thought his heart was going to physically break when her face crumpled.
"Why not, dammit?!?" she demanded, pounding a fist on his chest. "I need to meet him. I want to meet him. He's my father!"
Trunks put both hands on her shoulders. She refused to meet his eyes, her face stormy with rage. She shrugged out of his grip and faced him. Her ki rose steadily until it reached her limit...and then went beyond--
Pan screamed. Her hair turned golden, the same color as the aura that now surrounded her. She glared at Trunks, and went down into a fighting stance.
"I don't want to fight you, Pan," he said sadly. "Please, let's not do this."
She let out a guttural sound, and came at him, fists flying. Trunks blocked her punches and kicks, but she hurt him nevertheless. She was stronger than he was as a Super Saiyajin. He didn't try to hit back. He didn't want to. He knew how she felt, and knew that she needed to let out her steam. He just hoped that he wouldn't be dead by the time she was finished. He didn't think to turn Super Saiyajin, even to protect himself. It was his fault she felt like this and he wanted to take his punishment as is, foolish as the thought may be.
Pan didn't even see Trunks anymore. All she saw was a haze of images; her mother, her grandmother...Gohan. She drew a heaving breath that ended in a choked sob. But her eyes were dry.
A sound brought her out of her trance. A scream.
She dropped out of Super Saiyajin and looked around her. At her feet, Trunks was lying. He was bruised and bloody, his clothing torn. Much like she was when they had fought the first time. Aghast, she looked towards the doorway and saw Bulma staring at her, her mouth hanging open.
"Oh, Pan," she gasped. "What have you done?"
Then, after years of holding it back, of fighting it, Pan felt a tear roll down her cheek. Exhausted, she crumpled to the ground.
Trunks woke up to feel a cold compress on his forehead. He groaned loudly and tried to sit up, but his body hurt too much. He couldn't move. He rested back on the bed, his face tight with the pain.
"I gave you a pretty good beating," Pan said somewhere on his left.
He opened his swollen eyes a crack and looked at her without moving his head. "I trained you much better than I thought."
He closed his eyes. "I know. I understand how you feel."
"Can you just answer one question?"
"Why won't you let me meet him?" she asked, tortured.
"You may meet Gohan, but you won't meet the Gohan who was your father. What if this Gohan has a whole other family? You wouldn't have even met the Gohan that was your father. Keep your memories sacred, Pan."
"I don't have any memories," she exclaimed, her voice cracking. "That's why I want to meet him. To make memories."
Trunks lifted the cold compress and turned his head towards her with some difficulty. "I remember him. My mother and Chichi remembers him. Our memories will be your memory."
Pan shook her head wildly. "But I'm so close, Trunks. If only you'd--"
She closed her eyes and buried her face in her hands. He thought she was crying, but when she raised her head again, her eyes were as clear as day.
"I don't understand now, but I'm sure you're right." She didn't look as if she believed that. She turned her face towards him, her features set in stone. What she was going to say to him would tear her heart apart, but she had to do it. "I don't think I should be your student anymore. Not for a while anyway."
Trunks' mouth turned down in the corners. "Alright. Just--don't be a stranger, ok?"
Pan smiled tightly and left the room.
Trunks raised his hand to knock on Chichi's door. It had been nearly a month since Pan had packed up her things and left. He hadn't seen her since. She stopped by to see Bulma on occasion, but only when he wasn't home. He suspected Bulma called her when he left the house. The thought depressed him. He tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. It was growing out again.
Chichi opened the door with a warm smile. She hugged him in greeting.
"You haven't stopped by in such a long time," she chided gently. "If Pan wasn't here I would have marched myself over to Capsule Corp. and boxed your ears."
She ushered him inside and sat him down at the table. Automatically, she began putting food in front of him. Never one to argue with his elders, Trunks dug in.
Trunks grinned. "Sorry, Chichi. I just wanted to give Pan some time. Is she home?"
Chichi's smile flickered. "Actually, she isn't. She went out with Ken."
Trunks' grin faded. "How long has she been seeing him?"
"Nearly a month. She began seeing him after she moved n here." Chichi smiled wistfully. "I'm starting to be afraid that she's going to move out soon."
"She and Ken are very serious, you know," Chichi confided. "I think she's in love with him."
Trunks chewed furiously on a piece of chicken.
"I could tell," Chichi went on. "The way she carries on. She's gotten quieter and is given to daydreaming. Her kata has been a little off since she's started seeing him. Her mind is always off somewhere."
"He's too old for her," Trunks muttered sourly.
"Actually, he's only two years older than her. That's not bad." Chichi winked at him. "You're the one who's too old for her," she teased.
Trunks fought to swallow the chicken. He nearly choked on it.
"But I guess we won't have to worry about you," Chichi said. "So, tell me about what you've been up to." She studied his suddenly pale face. "You don't look too good." She put a hand to his forehead. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Just a little tired."
She patted his cheek. "Well, it looks like your face healed nicely. You can go and get yourself a nice girl now."
He smiled, self-conciously touching stitches along his hairline. "After the beating Pan gave me, I didn't think I'd be able to show my face in public again."
"Not this face," she said fondly, taking his chin in her hand. "I never noticed how handsome Vegeta was until I saw him in you."
"I'm sure Father would have loved to hear that."
Chichi shook her head, a wry expression on her face. "He didn't need anyone to tell him anything. He was very self-assured."
The front door opened just then and Pan came in, laughing. Ken came in with her, his arm around her shoulders. Trunks stood, his mouth dry. She looked beautiful in a sleeveless cotton dress that was the same shade of blue as her eyes. Her slender feet were clad in a pair of brown sandals. He was amazed at the change in her. She no longer stood wearily, as she did the first time he saw her. She held her head high, and met his eyes with confidence. One wouldn't ever think that she'd grown up on the streets.
Pan stared at Trunks, unable to grasp the fact that he was standing so close to her. She wanted to throw her arms around him. Dismayed, she realized that the feelings she had for him were still there, and as strong as ever. She had thought that she had moved on with Ken, but seeing Trunks again changed all that. She knew right then and there that she'd been leading herself and Ken on. Resolutely, she fought the feelings she had for Trunks and repeated to herself Ken is your boyfriend
"Hello, Pan," he greeted warmly. He stepped forward and offered his hand. "You must be Ken. It's nice to meet you." Polite as the words sounded, it seemed more like Trunks meant the opposite of the what they meant.
"Likewise," Ken said, sizing him up.
Trunks bristled, and squeezed Ken's hand a little harder than necessary. Ken squeezed back, of course it had no affect whatsoever. Trunks smirked.
"Your hair is getting long again," Pan said.
"I know. I was going to get it cut tomorrow."
Ken turned to Pan. "I better get going. I'll call you later."
Paying no heed to Chichi and Trunks, he leaned down and brushed his lips against Pan's. She looked surprised at the action, but didn't pull away. Trunks' fists clenched. He ground his teeth.
"Drive safe," Pan said, her voice husky.
"I will," Ken said, tugging on a strand of midnight-black hair. "Nice to have met you, Trunks. Bye Mrs. Son."
Chichi started to put the dishes away and Trunks helped her. Pan retreated to her room to change her clothes. She came back out dressed in gray sweats and white running shoes. She, Bulma and Chichi had gone shopping the weekend before and Bulma bought her an entire wardrobe. She brushed away Pan's protests, stating that this made up for all the birthdays and Christmases she missed.
"So, how have you been?" Trunks asked.
"Pretty good," Pan said, looking everywhere except at him. "How about you?"
"Do you want to go for a walk?" she asked.
They went out after grabbing their jackets and went down the path outside the house. The birds sang cheerily and the leaves fell around them as autumn leaves did. Trunks breathed in the clean air, tangy with the scent of the earth.
"You look good, Pan," he said with a smile. "It's hard to believe that I ever mistook you for a boy."
She smiled. "Thank you...I think."
He took in her shiny hair and bright eyes. She'd also gotten some color to once bloodless cheeks. She'd also gained some weight. She was still slender, but she had filled out nicely.
"Living with Chichi has been good for you," he observed.
"I couldn't have found her without you and Bulma. I'll be eternally grateful for that."
"So, when are we going to spar again?" he asked casually.
"I don't know," Pan answered, her tone chilly.
She put a hand up. "You don't need to explain yourself to me, Trunks," she interrupted. "I know your reasons and I respect them."
"Then, why are you still mad at me?" he asked desperately.
She stared at her feet and tucked her hair behind her ears. "Emotions don't need reasons to be. I just feel angry." She glared at a chirping bird. "I'm so close to him, Trunks, and you're standing in my way."
"I'm sorry, but I haven't changed my mind," he said softly.
"I know." She closed her eyes. "I don't think we'll be able to spar for a while."
He nodded. "I should probably get going then. That's all I came here for."
She nodded and started back towards the house. He watched her retreating back.
"I missed you," he said under his breath.
"I missed you," she said under hers, one hand over a suddenly aching heart.
There was a knock at the door and Pan went to answer it. Chichi was busy in the kitchen cooking up a storm. She threw the door open with a big grin. Bulma stood at the doorstep, and Pan hugged her. Behind his mother, Trunks held several packages. He smiled coolly, their conversation a month ago not forgotten.
"Happy birthday!" Bulma greeted. "You're finally two decades old. How do you feel?"
"Pretty good," Pan replied, stepping aside to let them in.
"Is Ken coming for lunch?" Bulma asked.
Trunks dropped the packages on the living table with more force than necessary. Bulma threw him an annoyed look. He pretended he didn't notice and went to the kitchen to help Chichi cook.
"No," Pan answered. "But he will be taking me out for dinner tonight."
"I hope that I'll meet him one day. How long have you been seeing him?"
"About three months."
Bulma smiled teasingly. "Ohhh...sounds serious, Pan."
Pan shrugged. "I'm just used to him, I guess."
Bulma cocked her head curiously. "That doesn't sound like true love to me at all."
Pan fingered the ribbon on one of her presents. The card stated that it was from Trunks. Her mouth quirked involuntarily at the sight of his name. Things still weren't settled between them, and inwardly she mourned. She resolved to smooth things out before they left.
"I don't know. I just have to sort my feelings out. I don't want to lead Ken on."
"He probably wouldn't appreciate it," Trunks said from the doorway. In his hands he held a casserole dish. He set it down on the table.
"I wouldn't think so," Pan agreed.
Trunks pulled out a chair for her and she smiled graciously as she sat. He took the seat next to her and across from Bulma. Chichi came in with the roast beef and sat next to Bulma. They joined hands and said grace, but Pan's mind wasn't on the prayer. She was just thinking how warm Trunks' hand felt and about the contrast between the smooth skin of his fingers and his callused palm. Swallowing hard, she quickly let go of his hand and served the food.
I thought I was done with him, she thought frantically. Now I know why I don't love Ken. I've been in love with someone else all along.
Completely unaware of Pan's emotional turmoil, Trunks lost himself in his own thoughts. He hated to admit it, but he was beginning to get depressed again. Ever since he and Pan had stopped sparring, he found himself at loose ends. Fortunately, he wasn't going down the downward spiral that he usually did. His hair was nice and short, and he wasn't getting up past noon. This was different kind of depression. It stemmed from the knowledge that everything he wanted was so close, yet unobtainable. He wondered if he was destined to be unhappy for the rest of his life.
He stole a glance at Pan at the same time she stole a glance at him. She smiled when his eyes met hers. He felt the heaviness that had been around his heart lift. He smiled back, the coolness gone.
"Happy Birthday, Pan," he said, his voice like a caress.
She smiled. "Thank you, Trunks. I was thinking that maybe we can spar tomorrow."
He practically glowed. "I would love that."
"I'll be at Capsule Corp. after lunch."
"I'll be ready for you."
To Chapter Six