The entire courtyard was in an instant uproar, and I was overlooked in the chaos. As the rest of the Z-Senshi strode forward to give the happy lovers their congratulations, I clutched my chest and thought fast. I felt lightheaded and faint, and my breathing was labored. I couldn't believe what was happening around me, and my body was severely and negatively reacting to the stunning news. However, I knew that I had one outstanding problem.
I couldn't let Trunks know.
I couldn't let anyone know.
My heart was shattered. The man I loved wholeheartedly and with every particle of my being had just pledged his life to another woman - a beautiful, smart, and desirable woman. That woman would bear him his children and grow old with him. She would stay by his side for the rest of both their lives. She was his chosen mate and would be his closest confidant and partner through this life and the next.
She was, sadly, someone who /wasn't me/.
The pain was unbearable.
And yet here I was, focusing all of my power and will to achieve one goal. I was using all of the harsh, rigid control I had learned from Vejita over the years to keep Trunks from knowing how much I loved him, how much I adored him, how willingly I would have sacrificed my life for him.
All because my stupid pride demanded it.
Isn't it ironic? How ironic is the fact that the greatest weakness of the powerful, invincible Saiyan race was our damnable pride? The same cursed pride that kept me from crying out and revealing the truth that day - that I had always loved Trunks, and could only love Trunks - was the same pride that so many Saiyans before me had lost against. It was the same pride that had prevented Vejita-ou from protesting when Frieza took his only son and heir into his service. It was the same pride that had made my father drag out the fight against Cell long enough for the monster to threaten the planet, which ultimately led to Grandpa Goku's sacrificing his life. It was also the same pride ingrained into Vejita-ouji that still plagued him to this day.
Our damnable pride.
And that day, another Saiyan fell to the demands of her pride. I, Son Pan, forced all of my broken feelings behind a mask, picked up the pieces of my broken heart, and shoved them into a void where they would be sealed and would stay for the next three years.
Because I had decided to leave home.
And so the icy mask was erected, the girl could hide, and she was relieved.
But unknowingly to her, as she forced herself to pretend to live on, as she smiled and laughed and tricked herself into believing that everything would be okay this way, something terrible happened.
The girl behind the mask began to wither away and die.
It was by pure luck that I had forced my face into a somewhat genuine smile by the time Trunks had gotten through the crowd and had reached me. He was grinning from ear to ear and putting his arm sheepishly behind his head like Grandpa had been famous for doing. When he walked up to me, eyes expectant, my heart leapt at the sight of him, but I forced it down.
My voice sounded dead even to me, so I knew he wouldn't buy it. Trunks always had been the one who could read me as easily as he could read books.
"Thanks," he said slowly, as if debating whether or not to say more. He took a deep breath. "Pan-chan," he began.
"/Pan-chan/," I all but spat, cutting him off viciously. "I am sick of being called Pan-chan/. I am /nineteen/, for Dende's sake! When will you people stop acting like I'm a little girl and start treating me like an adult? I've traveled through space, helped Grandpa to save the world, fought and defeated some of the most powerful warriors in the universe, and it's /STILL NOT ENOUGH FOR ALL OF YOU?" I exploded.
The entire courtyard was silent.
"Trunks," I said in a dying voice, trying desperately to keep my tears at bay. "You have always been my best friend, ever since I was little," I tried weakly. I struggled to find the words to explain my situation to him. My decision was already made, but how the hell was I going to get him to understand?
And then I thought of it.
I thought of a way that would allow me to leave, but still keep him from knowing the reason behind it. This way, I could grow up on my own, away from my smothering parents and overprotective family, away from the heartbreaking sight of Trunks and Marron's happy love. If I succeeded... if I could pull this off, I wouldn't have to have my heart broken all over again every time I saw Trunks with his fiancÃ©, and I could leave everything behind with both my mind and my dignity in tact.
So I lied through my teeth to the man I loved most.
"I... I hope that you can understand this, Trunks," I stammered. "I've been growing up around you, all of you," I gestured around me to the others, "and I love all of you. And I know all of you love me too, but you are killing me. I can't live like this, being babied and protected like a toddler. I'm suffocating. How am I supposed to grow? Become independent? Become my own person? I... I can't." I finished softly, mentally praying that they would believe my act.
Dende, please let HIM buy it, at least.
Trying to make my performance as believable as possible, I forced a determined look on my face and began again.
"I had meant to tell you this earlier," I addressed the entire group, "but Trunks and Marron beat me to the punch. I would like you to know, Trunks, and you too, Marron," I added reluctantly, "that my decision is not a result of your announcement today. I'm very happy for you both, and I wish you both a long and prosperous marriage."
That outright lie hurt my heart just to say it.
"But I would like all of you to know that I'm leaving."
I took a deep breath.
"The planet," I added.
My father was in an incoherent rage. It was the same deadly fury that could send Majin Buu running for dear life. His eyes flickered dangerously as he stalked slowly over to where I was standing next to Trunks and Marron.
"What are you going on about?" he growled threateningly, uncharacteristically Vejita-like. I winced.
"Have you completely lost your mind?" he hissed. "What are you thinking, going off and announcing that you're leaving the planet? If you think for one moment that I'm going to allow this insanity to continue -"
"That's /enough/, Gohan."
Trunks was glaring at my father with daggers in his icy blue eyes, his voice soft and deceptively low.
"You're completely out of line. Regardless of how much I respect you as a friend and as a mentor, I'm telling you that you're wrong." He turned to me.
"Pan's right, she does need to learn to live by herself. And she can't do that anywhere on this planet, because she knows that no matter where she goes, she'll always be within your flying distance." He turned back to my father.
"If she's decided that she needs to go off into space in order to get away from all of this, in order for her to grow into her own person, then I support her in her decision." He was standing defiantly before my father now.
At that moment, I was reminded of the thousands of reasons that I loved him so much.
And it hurt me infinitely more when I saw the engagement ring on his finger, reminding me that he was taken, that I had no chance, and that my love was unrequited.
'But that's alright,' a voice in my head told me. 'You'll be leaving now. You won't have to suffer ever again.'
I sighed and my determination returned.
'That's right,' I thought. 'No more pain, no more heartbreak, no more Trunks...
(One week later...)
"Hydrogen-oxygen conversion apparatus?"
"Ration, clothing, and medical supply storage capsules?"
"Check, check, and triple check."
"Then we're all set!"
I smiled. "Thanks, Bulma. I really appreciate you helping me get this together on such short notice. I know you're really busy."
She waved her hand dismissively. "Nonsense, Pan, it's no problem. Besides," she added warmly, "I think this trip would be a great experience for you."
"My dad still doesn't think so," I replied dryly, looking over my shoulder.
It had already been a week since I first decided to leave Earth, and today was finally the scheduled day of departure. Bulma and I had just finished double-checking the space capsule's working condition, and now it was time to say goodbye.
My father, needless to say, was still adamant about my staying.
I sighed. We were all gathered once again in the courtyard of Capsule Corporation. My shining new space capsule was stationed lightly on the grass, and Bulma was throwing me a small private farewell party. My things were packed and on board, and I couldn't wait to go. It had taken me all week to convince my mother and grandmother that this was what I wanted to do, and with Trunks' backing, I had finally gotten their permission to leave for an indefinite period.
I looked over to where he was standing, chatting with Goten and Bura, with Marron at his side. He laughed at something my uncle said, and my heart melted at the sound.
'He was never yours. Get over it,' I told myself. I grit my teeth and forced myself to turn away, and once again a cold mask descended over my face, hiding my feelings.
It was frightening, but the mask came to me much more easily this time.
I had been living the past week like this, hiding what I felt and avoiding my family and friends. I had thrown myself into the preparations, desperate for something to divert my attention from my emotional pain, and so far it had worked. If I had to see Trunks embrace Marron again, if I had to see the way he looked at her when he thought no one else was around...
I'd lose my mind. I just couldn't stand it anymore.
And now it was finally time for me to leave - time for me to leave behind this chapter in my life, to forget that Trunks ever existed, and to let the love that burned so brightly in my heart fade.
But something inside of me knew that it never would.
I stepped out of the building and back outside, helmet in hand and dressed in a spacesuit. When I walked out, everyone turned to face me, and I looked at their faces one by one.
I was going to leave them all behind.
I first bade goodbye to the Z-senshi - Yamucha, Kuririn, Tenshinhan, Chaotzu, and their respective families - and then moved onto the Briefs. I hugged Bulma and Bura each tightly, and Vejita nodded at me solemnly. I was about to move onto my family when he muttered softly under his breath something that was for my ears only.
"You better know what you're doing, brat."
"I know," I answered in an undertone just as soft as his. And he nodded once again and turned away, heading for the GR. I smiled sadly at his retreating figure, knowing that I would really miss sparring with the guy.
My mother was waiting for me near the end of the line, and I forced a smile on my face. Grandma Chichi was crying, and soon, Mom was too, tears streaming down her face as she walked up to me and embraced me tightly. I was holding back the tears myself, and after hugging them each once more, I turned to Goten and then Dad, expecting him to be angry, violent even.
He only looked at me and smiled sadly.
"I can't believe you're leaving home," he muttered as he hugged me.
"You aren't still mad at me, are you?" I asked him tentatively.
He sighed. "No, of course not. I guess I just wasn't ready to face the fact that my little girl has grown up. I'm sorry for not being more aware of your feelings earlier, kiddo, but I want you to know that you're leaving today with my blessing," he said sincerely.
I smiled. "Thanks, Dad."
He paused and put his hands on my shoulders. "Be safe, Pan," he told me seriously. "I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you."
"Don't worry, Dad. I can take care of myself." I pulled away from his embrace, smiling confidently, and gave him a look that said it was time.
It was his turn to smile this time. "I know, kiddo. I know."
I turned away from him then and faced the last two people I had to say farewell to...
Trunks and Marron.
The former managed to put a grin on his face as the latter just smiled politely. My heartbeat accelerated as Trunks stepped forward and pulled me into his arms, and I returned the favor enthusiastically. His scent was heavenly - a masculine, comforting scent - and after a few moments of being encased in the warm steel of his arms, I reluctantly let go.
"I'm sorry I'm leaving, with you two getting married and all," I said, awkwardly and fighting to keep my mask in place.
Trunks looked over at Marron and then turned back to me. "Well, we were talking it over last night, and... you know how important you are to me. You're my best friend, and I don't think our wedding would be complete if you weren't there. So Marron and I have agreed to postpone the wedding until you're back," he finished, smiling brightly.
I gaped. "Trunks, I don't know if I'll be back very soon. I mean, the universe is enormous. It might be a few years, even."
"I know, it's alright. We've decided that a long engagement would be fine."
For the first time that week, I smiled genuinely.
"Thanks, you two."
Marron stepped forward and cleared her throat. "Pan, I know we've never been exceptionally close, but I hope that when you get back, that can change. When you get back, I want you to be one of my bridesmaids for the wedding, and I hope we can be better friends after that," she offered, smiling.
I faltered. Memories of the past week flashed before my eyes - Marron hugging Trunks, Marron hanging onto Trunks' arms, Marron laughing at what her fiancÃ© was saying - and I tried to force myself to hate her, the one woman who stole the man I loved. I played the memories of those painful moments before my eyes, hoping desperately for that relishing, intoxicating anger to take over. It had come to me so easily before.
But I couldn't, and it was all for one simple reason that I suddenly realized...
Marron wasn't a bad person.
I hated to admit it, but she was kind, gentle, and friendly to everyone she knew, and it was impossible for me to hate her. Giving in to this revelation, I smiled and gave her a hug, albeit a hesitant one. Then, after looking at the two of them sadly and scanning my eyes carefully over the faces of everyone I loved, I turned and boarded the ship. It took all of my willpower to stand in the doorway and not look back as the door slided shut with a soft whoosh.
As I strapped myself in and the engine roared to life, I closed my eyes and thought how much simpler life had been when I had hated Marron.
Things had gotten so complicated.
'No matter,' I told myself. 'You're leaving that behind you forever.'
But as I blasted off into the mysteries of space, eyes closed and tears streaming down my face, I could still see that mesmerizing pair of crystalline blue eyes staring back at me.
Trunks watched as the space capsule launched into the air and became smaller and smaller, eventually disappearing into the stars. He knew he had supported Pan when she had decided to leave into space, but...
Why did he all of a sudden feel like he had lost a part of him?
Author's Note: The next chapter will jump three years into the future, to the year when Pan turns 22.
Disclaimer: Any and all characters belonging to Dragonball/Z/GT are the legal property of Toriyama Akira and/or FUNimation.