A/N: This story takes place in the real world, though I almost considered making this story for the canon universe. The only problem with that was, I never saw Goku and Chi-Chi's relationship going this way in DBZ, nor did I want to see it. Part of what I love about them is that they would never leave each other - they're too loyal and committed. But as an alternate universe scenario, I like the idea for this couple. In the real world, I could see this happening between them. It's much different than other fics I've written for this couple, more focused on the romance than anything else.
Late. He was late again.
She wasn't going to let it show - how annoyed she was by that. As she made her way through her moderately sized, three bedroom, two bath home, tidying as she went, she kept a smile plastered on her face. Her boys were loitering about the house somewhere, and the last thing she needed now were their curious stares and innocent questions about what was bothering her. She would take what little control of the situation she had, which meant making sure she was ready for his arrival, and that her boys never suspected anything was amiss.
As she made her way into her eldest son's bedroom, where he was seated on his bed, his eyes, so much like his father's, lifted briefly from his book. "Hey, Mom."
The casual greeting was all she was going to get out of her teenager, she decided, when she smiled back, only to see Gohan's face in the book again. At least it was a textbook.
Smiling in approval of both Gohan's reading material and the cleanliness of his room, Chi-Chi gently closed the door behind her.
After stepping into her second son's bedroom across the hall, the smile fell from her face. "Goten! What are you doing?!"
She bit her tongue when she nearly scolded him for not being ready. That remark would raise questions - questions she shouldn't have to answer. But as she surveyed the mess, grimacing at the explosion of toys all over the barely visible hardwood floor of Goten's room, she couldn't help asking again, "what are you doing in here?"
Big, dark eyes blinked up at her. "Playing."
When the child returned to playing, as if nothing was wrong, Chi-Chi groaned out her frustration. Even more like his father than Gohan, both in personality and appearance, Goten was the child testing her patience the most these days. At only seven years old, he could reduce her to a weeping pile of rubble, and he didn't even have a clue what he was doing to her. Just like his father.
Chi-Chi closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead, fighting her oncoming migraine. "Just put your toys away before - Just put your toys away quickly."
Chi-Chi bit her lip as she turned to leave Goten's doorway, hoping he didn't catch her near slip. This routine was getting old. It was always solely up to her to do anything remotely responsible on the boys' behalf. She thought things would change after all these years. But nothing really had.
"Hey, Mom!" Goten's excited holler forced Chi-Chi to spin on her heels in the hall, "can I sleep over Trunks' house next weekend?"
She sighed. At least she could hear the discordant crashes of toys being thrown in the toy box as he asked, but still, that boy had spent more than enough time at his rich and spoiled best friend's house lately, as far as she was concerned. All week, he had been asking for high-tech toys Chi-Chi couldn't possibly afford, because Trunks had them. Trunks was a nice boy, but sometimes, Chi-Chi doubted how great of an influence he was on her child. Then again, maybe the only reason she felt that way was because Trunks' parents were friends of Goku's.
"Yes, Goten. I heard you." Chi-Chi pressed her lips together, thinking how to carefully word her answer as she braced a hand against the wall scattered with various pictures of her boys, "your father and I will talk about it."
The answering groan from her child's bedroom made Chi-Chi wince. Apparently, Goten had already deciphered her code for a negative answer. Now, whether he had his sleepover or not, he'd know it was Dad who fought for it and Mom who denied it. There was no way for her to come out of this without being the villain.
"But what if Dad says-"
"I said we'll talk about it!" Chi-Chi snapped, causing her son to gasp in fear from his bedroom.
At least she had that. Goku might've had the honor of being the fun parent, but she certainly commanded respect from her boys. She knew they felt just as much love and admiration towards her, but whenever there was a new adventure to be had, they never hesitated to run off with their father.
Speaking of which...
Chi-Chi headed down the hall to her open floor plan living room and kitchen in search of the clock hanging above the fireplace mantle. If she remembered correctly, Goku said the game he was taking the boys to would start at five o'clock. The large, decorative clock showed five minutes to. Either they were going to be very late, or Goku had the time of the game wrong. Crossing her arms, Chi-Chi debated whether to go in there and tell those boys that it was time to leave. If Goku didn't show soon, she figured she could drive them to the stadium.
"Dad's running late again?" The rhetorical question from Gohan made Chi-Chi tense.
Slowly, she turned to face him, keeping the most genuine smile on her face that she could muster. "Gohan, are you ready for the game?"
Gohan smiled, holding up a full duffel bag. "It's a big night for Krillin. Dad thinks this game will be his big break."
Chi-Chi's smile widened. "Really? Well, I would tell you to wish him luck for me, but-"
"But by the time we get there," Gohan glanced at his watch, "the game might be into the second quarter already!"
Chi-Chi couldn't help chuckling along with her son. His bright optimism was contagious. That shared attribute with his father was one of many that initially attracted her to the grossly irresponsible man they were all waiting on.
Just when Chi-Chi looked over at the kitchen, seriously considering her car keys hanging above the counter, the sound of an engine revving in the driveway made her eyes go wide.
Gohan smiled at her as the car horn blared, then called over his shoulder, "Goten, you ready?!"
"Wait! Dad's here?" Goten called in a panic from his room. "I need to find my new action figure so I can show it to him!"
"Goten!" Gohan grumbled, his posture deflating as he turned to face the hall. "We're going to miss the game!"
"But I need it!"
Chi-Chi patted a hand on Gohan's shoulder. "Why don't you help him find it? I'll meet you out front."
Giving her teenage son a reassuring smile (he could worry just as badly as she did sometimes), Chi-Chi watched Gohan as he stormed into Goten's bedroom. Then she turned for the front door, doing some storming of her own as she went out to meet Goku.
Outside, the car engine was running, and between the exhaust fumes wafting from the engine and the smell of her potted, beautifully multicolored hydrangeas near the door, Chi-Chi could feel her migraine intensify as soon as she stepped out on the welcome mat. Or maybe it was just the tension caused by approaching her infuriating ex-husband.
Sitting in the driver's seat of his beat-up, yellow gas-guzzling hot rod was the most handsome man Chi-Chi had ever seen. Chi-Chi realized now that her original infatuation with Goku was mostly attributed to a fantasy Goku Son that she had created in her naive mind all those years ago, but his attractiveness never needed conjuring. If anything, he was more handsome now than when they married. Still, as he sat there with that handsome smile, not having a care in the world about the fact that he was running late for a friend's special event, or that he'd kept his children waiting, or that he'd inconvenienced her, Chi-Chi approached the handsome bastard with her eyes narrowed.
"Hi, Chi-Chi! Are the boys ready to go?"
Chi-Chi slammed a palm on the hood of Goku's beloved car. "You're late."
"Huh?" Goku raised his brows, then glanced at his dashboard, as if the matter of the time hadn't occurred to him until Chi-Chi mentioned it. "I guess time really does fly when you're having fun."
While Goku laughed and raised a hand to rub the back of his head in a habitual gesture, Chi-Chi rolled her eyes. She didn't even want to ask what kind of 'fun' Goku had been having that made him half an hour late to pick up his children for the weekend.
"So, are they-"
"They're coming." Chi-Chi said hastily as Goku glanced towards the house, seeking the emergence of their happily oblivious children. "We need to talk."
Goku tensed as his eyes darted to meet Chi-Chi's. "About?"
Chi-Chi couldn't help quirking a smile. She enjoyed the fact that she could still strike fear in him. "Goten wants to spend the night at Bulma's next weekend."
Goku shrugged. "Okay."
"I don't want him to. He was just there."
"Aww. Why not? He's seven. Seven-year-olds have sleepovers with their best friends all the time."
Chi-Chi shook her head. "Don't give him permission, Goku, or you'll make me into the bad guy again!"
Goku pouted. Chi-Chi had to turn away from that look as she scoffed. She knew what argument was coming from him, and she foresaw them getting into another argument over his permissiveness, but there was no time. She had to move on to a more important matter. She hoped Goku understood the importance of the parental decision she'd taken the liberties of making on her own.
Taking a deep breath, Chi-Chi met Goku's eyes again. "I registered Gohan at Orange Star High. I've taught him all I can from home. He's transferring to public school next week."
Goku's pout disappeared as his face lit up with that contagious smile he was famous for. Looking at him, Chi-Chi couldn't hide a tight-lipped smile. It was a relief, not getting an argument from Goku on this important matter. She was proud of her son's academic accomplishments so far. Gohan had clear ambitions to become a professor, and he was already off to a great start, entering his junior year at the head of his class.
"Wow! Going to school in the big city!" Goku gushed, turning his head to smile towards the doorway of Chi-Chi's suburban home as their two sons finally emerged.
Chi-Chi turned away from the others, shaking her head in disbelief. Of course it was the big city that had Goku excited, not the great prospects for their son's future. Goku never cared for academic achievements. Hell, he was a high school dropout who never gave a second thought to finishing his education. Why she expected Goku to place any value on Gohan's schooling, she had no idea.
Goku beamed at the two boys as they rushed for the passenger side of the car. "Gohan! Goten!"
"Dad!" Both boys called for him in unison, laughing with glee as Gohan dove into the front seat, while Goten raced into the back, both of them tossing their bags in the back seat and slamming the doors shut with two harsh thuds that shook the car.
Goku paid no mind to the damage they could have inflicted on his car, while Chi-Chi cringed as she imagined how badly Goku was probably beating up on poor Nimbus on a regular basis. Under his care, that car might not last much longer.
Goku turned to his passengers, bracing his arm over the headrest, "Ready to see Krillin and Yamcha kick some ass?"
"Yeah!" Gohan beamed, nodding vigorously in agreement, while Goten snickered at Goku's vulgar word.
Chi-Chi gasped. "Goku!"
"Come on, Dad!" Goten bounced in his seat. "Let's go!"
"Alright!" Goku clenched his fingers around the steering wheel, before looking out his window to see Chi-Chi stepping back from the car and crossing her arms.
Chi-Chi smiled fondly at his moment of hesitation, before meeting the eyes of her boys with heartfelt emotion, knowing she wouldn't see them for the next two days. Then she smiled back at Goku, showing her appreciation for his rare show of consideration for her.
"Bye, Mom!" Goten's little fingers wiggled in the air as he waved from the backseat. "I'll miss you!"
Gohan leaned past Goku, shooting Chi-Chi a handsome smile through the opening of the driver's side window. "Bye. Have fun with Eighteen tonight. We'll see you Sunday!"
As Goku's car slowly backed out of her short driveway, Chi-Chi raised a palm to her lips, releasing it to blow a kiss to her beloved children. "Bye! Have them back here by seven o'clock on Sunday, Goku! I mean it!"
By the time she'd called her last words, Chi-Chi was practically screaming. It was impossible to compete with the noise of Goku's car, though it had always been difficult to compete with Nimbus. That hadn't been her problem for a long time, though. She could let some other woman worry about that.
Speaking of other women, the thought of her weekly meet up with Eighteen that Gohan had mentioned brought some relief to Chi-Chi's mind, especially after that stressful wait at the end of her day. Ironically, though Eighteen was married to Goku's childhood friend playing in the game that night, Eighteen was meeting up with Chi-Chi instead of attending. The stoic blonde whole-heartedly sided with Chi-Chi after the divorce. The two women were closer friends now than they ever were when Chi-Chi and Goku were together.
Chi-Chi was looking forward to seeing her friend, when she would surely get a chance to vent about her ex. She would dress herself up now for sushi and drinks, get out of the house for the evening, and afterwards, try to find a way to fill the void in her time for the rest of the weekend without feeling lonely in her empty home.
She just hoped that Goku would be on time for a change on Sunday. It was hard enough to wait for her boys through the weekend without having to anticipate a late return. But she had to prepare herself. Goku was never on time.
As much as Chi-Chi had once envisioned Goku as the perfect husband, he had proven her wrong at every turn. He wasn't a perfect father, either, but those boys both worshipped him. At least they were happy. Their happiness was all that really mattered to Chi-Chi. Maybe someday, Chi-Chi could move on from Goku and find her own happiness again.
In the meantime, she was content with being a mother and giving her sons the best life she could provide for them, which she had been doing just fine on her own for the last seven years.