Originally Amida had been developed as a vacation spot for the rich but had become a settlement in its own right when some of those people decided not to return home. The planet was a small blue-green sphere that sat isolated much like the human homeworld of Earth. It even bore a superficial resemblance when seen from space, but once you landed, if you had ever been to Chikyuu you definitely couldn't draw a comparison unless you had seen it before the humans began systematically destroying it. Amida, even after settlement, still retained a wild and primordial quality.

Vegeta berthed his ship in the public section of the docks and caught a cab the instant he stepped onto the street. Dressed as he was in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt, The perpetually tropical weather of Amida's capital city of Grath was going to kill him. He was also thinking about investing in a pair of sunglasses to stop the bright sun from blinding him.

After a quick trip to the touristy section of the city where all manner of tacky goods were sold, he was outfitted better for the weather. He hoped that he wouldn't be on the planet for more than a day, but had no idea what was waiting for him at Buruma's parents' house.

The cab ride to the Briefs estate wasn't very long and he was taken through neighborhoods that looked as if they were either movie sets or belonged on the glossy covers of fine living magazines. It suddenly made sense why the cab driver had asked him if he was sure that he had the right address. He'd always insisted that Trunks was dropped off at wherever they were going to spend the day so that he wouldn't have to deal with Buruma's parents. It wouldn't be at all surprising to him if the oppressive atmosphere of the neighborhood was one of the reasons why Trunks was acting out.

By the time he pulled up to 213 Hawthorne Place he was very ready to leave Amida. Each and every property looked as if it was trying to compete with that of its neighbors in terms of grandeur and landscaping (which probably wasn't at all far from the truth). So much money was going to waste. Who needed a damn artificial waterfall anyway?

He actually had to get out and press the button on the intercom so that someone in the house would open the huge wrought iron gates. The cab driver wasn't willing to wait for him, at first, but all it took was a brief wave of a bill of large denomination in his face. He assumed that Trunks was ready and waiting for him. He'd contacted them from space when he was waiting for an arrival window and that had been an hour and a half ago. There should be no delays. And in a perfect world there wouldn't be.

As it turned out, he had to wait a while for his son to finally get all of his things together (and he definitely had a lot of things). There had already been boxes upon boxes of belongings in the entrance hall when his grandmother finally admitted him into the house, but the pre-teen was still bringing down more. It seemed that Buruma and her parents had tried to buy Trunks' affection. As there wasn't really any room in his two-bedroom efficiency apartment, most of his son's things would either have to be placed into storage or sold. He was leaning towards the latter as he didn't want to rent storage space.

"Trunks!" he shouted up the stairs. "If you aren't down here in thirty seconds, I'm going to make you pay for the cab ride to the shuttle port!" Briefs-san frowned at him for raising his voice and he ignored her.

Trunks came barrelling down the stairs with one final box. "Jeez, you act like I took half a day."

"Half an hour is long enough when the meter's running. I hope you're aware that there is no way in hell all of this is going to fit in that car."

"You shoulda rented a truck, then," Trunks informed him.

Ignoring his smartass remark, Vegeta said, "Pick out which ones you want to take along with you. Your grandparents are going to ship the rest at their expense."

"We're going to do what?" Trunks' grandmother asked.

"I naturally assumed since it's your daughter who's disrupting Trunks' life that you or she would foot some of the cost of moving him." Behind his father, Trunks began to grin in amusement. Few people were willing to stand up to his grandparents or his mother because they were so wealthy and influential. He and Vegeta were a lot alike in personality. For the first time ever Trunks didn't feel like he had no real family.

"Fine," Briefs-san agreed reluctantly as she opened the drawer of a nearby end table to retrieve a piece of paper and a writing utensil so that she could take down the shipping information. She was actually relieved to have her grandson out of her home. He had done nothing but disrupt her life from the moment Buruma had brought him home from the hospital.

Vegeta and Trunks carried out his things to the waiting taxi and drove off to the shuttle port. The Saiya-jin could clearly see the glee in the man's eyes at how high the numbers were on the meter. He really wasn't going to make Trunks pay for his delay with money, but it couldn't hurt to make him do a lot of the small jobs around his apartment that he himself hated. They'll just see how arrogant Trunks would be after scrubbing the toilet with a toothbrush.

After scheduling a departure window, Vegeta took the time to really look at his son. He was a little on the short side like himself and they shared the same general bone structure, but his hair was lavender like his grandfather's had been once upon a time. It made him think that Buruma's true hair color was the same shade instead of that awful greenish-blue she favored. Trunks also had his mother's eyes, but they were sharper and more cunning. While the intelligence had been inherited from his mother and grandfather, the two elder Briefs family members had an annoying habit to become so focused on one thing that they neglected everything else. Trunks, on the other hand, would probably be excellent at multi-tasking.

It was a little while after they'd gotten settled into their seats before Trunks broached a subject neither of them were willing to touch. "Why are you doing this? Okaasan doesn't want me and she saw me every day. You're taking over and you were hardly ever around."

"It has more to do with my own father than with you, I think." Vegeta was nothing if not honest. He had a feeling that Trunks would hardly appreciate being lied to. "He spent a lot of his time trying to control me and make me into something that I'm not. Even though he was always around, we never really spent any father-son time together. When I'm on Amida, don't we have a good time?"

"Yeah," Trunks admitted. "I have more fun with you than I ever have with them. But that just makes it even harder to go home afterward. I used to think about running away a lot when I was little."

"'When you were little'?" he asked with amusement. "Just how old do you think you are?"

"I'm almost twelve," was his defensive response. "Most of the time I feel a lot older than eleven anyway."

Vegeta nodded. "That's part of the problem, huh? You don't want to spend all your time around kids."

"Exactly!" He looked relieved that someone finally understood. "Okaasan wouldn't let me skip grades 'cause she said that I needed to be around kids my own age. 'Trunks, you have to form important social contacts for the future!'" He imitated his mother's customary pompous tone of voice fairly accurately. "But they're all stupid and boring. And the schoolwork's so fuckin' easy!"

Frowning at his language, Vegeta started to reprimand him but then decided against it. He didn't want Trunks comparing him to his mother. Besides, it was just a word. Finally an incoming transmission letting him know that it was his turn to launch saved him from making a comment. "Strap yourself in, kid. We're taking off."

"Aye aye, Cap'n," was the sarcastic reply.

***
Life continued at the Son apartment. His boys returned to school on Monday no worse for wear, but not really any better, either. While Goten had his friend Chisa to take his mind off of things, Gohan had no one. He had never really been able to connect with his peers.

Goku brought his worry to work where he constantly made stupid mistakes due to inattention. Fortunately his boss was understanding when he gave him a brief overview of the situation, but he didn't think that his understanding would last for very much longer.

One of his co-workers, a ghazi named Feril, was honestly concerned about him. They'd begun a sort of cordial acquaintanceship since Feril started working there about five months before, but they'd never spent any time together outside of work. While they were working on a newly-restored classic auto for one of their more loyal (and wealthy) clients, Feril brought up his recent preoccupation.

"Goku, what's going on with you?" the four-foot, twelve-inch tall emerald green-furred fox-like man cocked his head at him, his dark eyes focused on Goku's own.

"It's a long story," the Saiya-jin sighed.

"Well, it's almost time for our lunch break so you can tell me then."

They finished up what they were doing and headed off to a nearby restaurant instead of the employee lounge. Even though it was small, there was still privacy that they wouldn't be able to have in the lounge. After placing their orders, Feril steepled his fingers and waited for Goku to start speaking.

"My wife left me. Left us. She just up and left Thursday before the boys and I came home with hardly an explanation. Gohan and Goten are devastated. Me? I'm mostly disappointed and angry on their behalf."

"That's terrible, Goku. Are you going to look for her?"

He shook his head and sighed for what seemed like the hundredth time since learning of Chi Chi's desertion. "She didn't say where she was going and I'm starting to think that maybe it was for the best. Once upon a time she loved me -- was maybe even in love with me -- but that's changed. We wouldn't be doing the boys any favors by trying to stay together."

Feril reached across the table and laid his small hand atop Goku's. "If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm here."

"Thanks," he smiled, silently hoping that Feril wasn't coming on to him. He really wasn't into cross-species relationships, not that Feril wasn't handsome... for a ghazi, anyway. He also wasn't yet ready to move on.

They spent the remainder of lunch in affable companionship.

***
Gohan had been instructed to be at home before his brother got there, which was nigh on impossible since not only was his school farther away from the apartment but his school day ended thirty minutes after Goten's did. He didn't remind his father of this because he didn't want to add to the burden that his mother had left him with. So instead he'd asked Goten to stay at school until he came to get him and promised to be as quick as possible.

Goten was playing some sort of hand game with Chisa on the front steps of the school when he showed up. Making a face, Gohan asked himself (not for the first time) why his little brother was so girly at times.

"Hey, you two ready?" he called.

"Yeah!" they shouted in unison, grabbing their backpacks and running over to where he stood on the sidewalk. Goten hugged his Gohan impulsively and Chisa did exactly what he did -- as usual. The little felid girl didn't have any siblings of her own and thought of Goten as her adopted brother as well as her best friend.

"Can I stay with you guys today?" she asked with pleading sapphire eyes. "I'm tired of being alone all the time."

"Can she, Gohan? Pleeeeeeease?" Now two sets of large, liquid eyes were staring up at him.

Knowing it was a lost cause, Gohan gave in. "Okay, she can stay over. Just don't bother me; I've got homework to do."

"Yay!" they shouted, running ahead of him impatiently. Gohan rolled his eyes at their antics, wondering if all kids were like that. If so, he didn't think he would ever have any.

Once they got home and he'd dismissed the baby-sitter waiting for Chisa (who was very happy to have a day off), he somehow got them to sit still long enough to do their homework. It also gave him time to start a report on cell mutation that was due soon for Biology. He'd checked out the necessary books from his high school's library as well as a few from the local public branch, but he still had to create an outline and actually read the books for information. He quickly lost himself in a lengthy passage about the natural resistance that furians had against many infectious diseases, the world around him fading into the background.

In the living room, Goten and Chisa had already grown bored with their worksheets and had turned on the television. After only ten minutes of watching cartoons, they decided that they were hungry. Unfortunately the kitchen was nearly empty since Goku had yet to do the grocery shopping for that week. After checking the refrigerator, just about the only things in there were condiments, bread, cheese, milk, and orange juice. Everything else was either raw and frozen. "Hey, I can make grilled cheese. It's the only thing we have all the stuff for."

"You sure you know how to do that?" Chisa asked.

"Yeah, it's not hard. Niichan[1] does it all the time."

"Gohan-niichan's older than us, though. And he's tall enough to reach over the top of the stove."

Goten waved her protests away and grabbed the ingredients that he needed. Chisa hovered worriedly nearby, every single warning her parents had ever gave her about not using the stove without adult supervision going through her mind. But she didn't say anything else, only hoped that she wouldn't have to call the fire department.

The youngest Son retrieved a frying pan from one of the lower cupboards and covered the inside with cooking spray. Then he spread butter on four slices of bread and stuck two of them in the pan with a slice of cheese between them. Remembering that he would need something to flip the sandwiches with, he rummaged through a drawer for a spatula.

"Pour us some juice and stop worrying. Nothing's going to go wrong." He took one of the kitchen chairs and pushed it up against the stove so he could reach better.

With everything he did, Chisa grew more and more tense. When he set the cooktop temperature, she bit her lip. When the sandwich began to smoke, she covered her eyes.

"Oops. We're gonna have to throw that one away." Goten hopped down from the chair and carried the pan over to the trash can to discard the burned grilled cheese.

"Can we please ask Gohan to make us something?" she begged.

"What? You don't think I can do it?"

She shook her head. "Nuh uh."

"Hey, I thought you were my best friend!" he whined.

"I am but I don't wanna get burned up in a fire." Her decision made, she ran off to Gohan's room. "I'm gonna get Gohan."

"Stop, Chisa!" he shouted. When she ignored him, he raised his voice even louder. "CHISA!"

This broke Gohan's concentration. He looked up from his book and frowned at the closed door of the bedroom he shared with Goten. A few seconds later, Chisa burst through the door without knocking -- as per usual. "Gohan, stop him! He's trying to use the stove all by himself."

"What?!"

Goten followed her. "She's exaggerating. I'm not going to set anything on fire. It was only one sandwich..."

"But you still used the stove!" The teen tossed his book aside and went out ot assess the damage. "Tousan's not going to be happy when he hears about this."

"Then don't tell him."

"Goten, I have to tell him! He left me in charge and I really feel bad about lying to him."

The ten-year-old tried to use the "puppy dog look" to get his brother to keep what he did a secret but it wasn't going to work this time. Knowing that he was going to be punished, Goten headed straight for the living room. His father's punishments usually involved taking away his TV time.

Chisa looked torn. Gohan patted her on the head and praised her, knowing that she felt guilty about tattling. "Thank you for telling me."

"You're welcome, but I hope he's not mad at me."

"Even if he is, you did the right thing." He started to say something more when a loud, shrill beeping sound startled both of them.

"What is that?" Chisa said above the noise.

"It's the smoke detector!" Gohan ran into the hallway in search of the source of the smoke. As he feared, it was coming from the kitchen. The frying pan was sitting atop the stove and the cooktop was still on. The remnants of the sandwich Goten threw away was stuck to the bottom of the pan and was the source of the thick gray smoke. Coughing, Gohan fanned it away and turned off the stove.

Two small faces peeked at him from around the doorway, Goten's lower than Chisa's. His younger brother wore a look of terror. Nearly starting a fire and blackening the bottom of a pan would earn him a punishment far greater than just using the stove. He now knew for certain that there was no way that Gohan would be able to forget that he'd ever done anything wrong. Not with the evidence sitting in the sink.

"You might as well get in all the television time you can because it's going to be at least a month before Tousan allows you to watch it again," his brother said, weary with the relief that disaster had been averted.

"I'm sorry," Goten said meekly. "I won't do it again."

"I hope not. What if I hadn't been home when this happened? What if you had burned up the entire apartment? Goten, Tousan tells you not to do things for a reason, but maybe he needs to add an explanation when he does it." Personally, Gohan figured if someone in authority instructed you to do or not do something then it was in your best interest to listen, but he knew that a lot of people didn't see things that way. They needed to know the reason behind everything they were told. "You and Chisa are going back in the living room and are going to finish your homework. Hopefully this'll happen before Tousan comes home. I'll try to delay the inevitable as long as I can, but you'll have at least ten minutes after he gets here since he usually takes a shower before dinner." He had instructions to order take-out since there was hardly anything to eat in the house.

"Okay, Niichan. C'mon, Chisa." The two children did as told without protest and Gohan had at least an hour's worth of work to look forward to. He could at least reduce the damage before his father got home. He might go easy on Goten if he didn't have the evidence of his misbehavior staring him in the face.

"This on top of everything else," he muttered. It was really turning out to be a bad month.



[1] = short for "oniichan", which is an informal word for older brother. The formal word is oniisan.
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