PART 32: Hope for B-chan… 

        "Y?your new girlfriend…is Bra-chan?" Pan exclaimed. 
        "Girlfriend?" Bra looked up at Goten in shock. 
        "Uh…surprise?" Goten forced a laugh and thought about how nice it would be to strangle Pan. "And, uh, no.  You see, it's not like we…uh, well…she…" 
        Girlfriend? Bra thought.  For a moment, she was dancing on air, overwhelmed by happiness.  She knew she was blushing as she touched her red cheeks and everything seemed to be twinkling and shining.  Heart-shaped flower buds flew everywhere, bringing a funny melody into her mind. Goten told her he's meeting his new girlfriend…and he's meeting ME? 
        Pan stared at Bra's comical look (heart-shaped eyes ^_~) then she frowned. "Well, if you two want to be 
        "NO!" Goten and Bra said together.  Bra looked down because she couldn't meet his eyes when he looked at her.  Goten looked at Pan. "Well…hehehe…I told you it was a surprise, right?  Well…surprise!  It's Bra, your best friend!" 
        "Uh-huh…" Pan's eyes narrowed. 
        "Excuse me…I need to go to the Ladies' Room…" Bra turned and walked away from them. 
        Pan glared at her uncle, then turned and ran after Bra. "Bra-chan!  Wait!" she called as she rushed after her friend. 

        "Bra, I'm not happy." Pan leaned against the wall with her arms crossed.  She somehow reminded Bra of 
her father, and she knew her father's reaction (if he was in a good mood) might be similar. 
        Bra looked at her reflection, then turned back to Pan.  But what could she say? 
        Pan frowned again. "Is there anything I should know about?" she asked, finally breaking the silence between them. 
        Pan, you big spoiler… "Well…" 
        "I?I can't!" 
        "Just say it, Bra!   Tell me what's going on!" 
        "Nothing, okay?" Bra couldn't help glaring at her friend a little. "I asked your uncle out today…but it 
was just to go shopping with me.  That's all." 
        "But why him?  Why not Marron?  Or…or your father?" Pan moved over to Bra. "Come on, Bra, answer me." 
        "I…I…" Bra could see Pan glaring at her in the mirror.  The staring made her feel like she had to tell the truth, but she couldn't.  How could she tell the truth when it might destroy their friendship?  But telling the truth was part of friendship.  What could she do? 
        "You have feelings for him, don't you?" Pan accused. "My uncle." 
        Bra stared at her friend in dismay.  How could Pan have known?  Marron told her, too?  Bra forced herself to look away.  She had to hide her red cheeks.  Pan couldn't find out the truth so soon.  How would Pan handle this?  Bra stared blankly at the wall and shook her head. "Marron-chan was busy…and Tousan didn't want to go today," she lied softly. "I have to buy presents for tomorrow and I need company." 
        "And so you chose GOTEN?" 
        Bra nodded slowly. "I didn't know you were back yet.  If I had, I would have asked you, of course." 
        Pan sighed.  It hurts that Bra, her best friend, neglected her.  But even though she was hurt, that was no reason to get angry with her friend.  She's known Bra too long and too well. 
        Neither one said anything for several minutes. 
        "Pan?" Bra ventured. "Are you…mad at me?" Bra forced herself to turn around and prepared herself for the scolding she was sure she would get.  But, to her surprise, Pan was smiling. 
        "Nah…I'm not mad…why should I be?" Pan shrugged. "It was just that when Ojichan told me he was seeing another girl today and I found out it was you…I thought YOU were Ojichan's new girlfriend!" 
        Bra raised her eyebrows. 
        "Imagine that," Pan continued. "You and my uncle…dating!  Hahaha!  Silly, huh?" 
        "Yeah…" Bra laughed mildly. "It's stupid…" And you don't know how stupid. 
        "Well, let's go, Bra!  You don't want to stay in here forever, do you?" 
        "Of course not!" Bra replied cheerfully.  Well, at least with everything else that was going on, Pan wasn't mad at her.  So there would be no problems that day.  She hoped.  

        "Oh, Bra, look here!  This one's perfect for Krillin-ojichan!" Pan said, holding up a blue, velvet tie.  At first Bra just stared at it, then smiled. 
        "Sure, of course.  Why not?" She took it from Pan. "Hey…what about that fake spider for Marron?" 
        "Good idea!" Pan grinned wickedly.  Both girls laughed and searched for more interesting bargains.  
        Goten, though, was buried under a pile of boxes and bags they made him carry.  They'd be shopping for less than two hours, but they must have already spent more than $500.  But that wasn't enough.  What was going to happen in two more hours?  Beads of sweat rolled down his forehead as he imagined himself drowned by millions of bags. "Where's Trunks when you need him?" he mumbled.  This wasn't the first time he'd been treated like that, but Trunks had always been with him before, sharing in his pain.  Now he was alone. 
        "Goten-kun?  Are you okay?" 
        Bra suddenly popped up in front of him. She looked at him in concern. "Oh…er…yes, don't worry," he said while trying to balance the many boxes and bags he held. "Sure…I'm fine." 
        Bra giggled and took some of the bags away from Goten. "Here, let me help you, we're almost done anyway." 
        "That's odd," he said as he gave her some things to carry.  "You're usually saying, 'Hurry up, Goten!' or, Goten, hurry up!'" He paused. "Okay, so they're the same.  But still…this isn't like you!" 
        Bra gave him a what-are-you-talking-about look. 
        "Well…" He started when he understood Bra's reaction. "Um…that is…aa…" 
        "Wait, I just remembered something," Bra interrupted.  She took something out of her handbag. "Niichan made this for me last week." She grinned as she showed him the capsule.  She pressed the button and threw it on the ground.  As the smoke cleared the air, a big, round object appeared in front of them.  The thing somewhat resembled a Saiyajin spaceship. 
        "That's a…what is that?" Goten demanded, eyes wide. 
        Pan ran over to them. "Hey guys…what happened here?" 
        Bra held her head high. "For your information, this is…well, I don't know what it's called." Bra frowned. "But Niichan said it would be very useful when I shop!" 
        "Why?" Pan asked. "Do you ride around in it or something?" 
        "No, silly!  We put our stuff in here!" Bra laughed. "Watch." She put the things she bought in the…thing, then took more from Goten and put them in the same place.  She closed the door to it and pressed one button and the big round thing turned back into a small capsule "Ta-da!  And our hands are free for more!" 
        "Whoa…that's pretty neat!" Pan exclaimed. 
        "Yeah, what a relief!" Goten chimed in. 
        Bra giggled. "Thank you, thank you." She blushed a little when she noticed Goten was smiling down at her. "So, Pan, let's go find our new shoes, shall we?" 
        "Oh, yes!  I think I found the perfect store.  The prices look good and the shoes were?" 
        "Oh, no, B-chan!  What have you done to my niece?  She's started…shopping!" Goten teased.  Goten and Bra began laughing hysterically until Pan began blushing and gave them both her best glare.  They quickly shut up. 

        Goten stayed outside the store, waiting for the girls to come out.  The place was too crowded for him to 
stay in there even five minutes.  He read the poster again.  25% off everything in the store!  Now, who could miss that?  He chuckled and looked around again.  There was a small bookstore in the hallway.  It was out-of-the-way and almost completely empty.   He didn't even see the shop's owner anywhere.  He began reading the headlines of the newspapers and magazines that were on display.   Until one article caught his eye. 
        "Goten-kun!  Here you are!" Bra came up to him. "I was looking all over for you…Pan's still in there…I guess that shop really sucked her in…" She laughed, but stopped when Goten didn't join in. "Goten…are you okay?" she asked. 
        He didn't answer, just kept reading the article, frowning. 
        Bra tried to find what he was looking at.  She moved closer to him and gasped as she read one headline. "'Supermodel Paris finds love in Paris'?" she read aloud indignantly.  It was good headline, but she didn't care about that.  What caught her attention was that there was a small picture of a guy sitting very close to a very familiar person.  The person she hates more than anybody else does. "That's…Paris…" Goten didn't reply.  Bra kept reading the article.  Paris had met a man while on tour in Paris?  They had been going out a month and said something about a wedding?  
What was going on? Bra felt her anger rise and Goten noticed that from her rise in ki.  Wasn't he the one supposed to be getting angry?  Why was she?  He forced himself to chuckle. "I dated her for two years before proposing and that guy only needed a month?" He looked at the picture of his ex-girlfriend and whoever the dweeb was.  Bra looked up at him and knew that behind the smile, there was a terrible wound that would be hard to heal.  She stared at him, then back at the picture, and bit her lip.  She covered it with her hand and stood in front of Goten, forcing him to look at her. 
        Goten blinked in surprised. "B-chan?" 
        "You have to forget about her, Goten-kun," she said softly. "You need to let go of her and remember the people around you…the people who care about you…" She fought her nervousness and looked him straight in the eyes. 
        Goten barely heard her words…all he could think was how beautiful that pair of eyes were.  He could almost see his reflection in them. "I can only hope someone cares for me," he said. 
        "Oh, Goten-kun, why are you so blind?" she muttered under her breath. 
        "Oh…no, it's nothing." She sighed. "I really understand you, Goten-kun.  You and me…we need someone 
to be with…we're afraid to be alone.  Everybody needs someone to hold on to…to share feelings with…to love and to be loved in return…but even if you don't have that kind of love right now, you have friends and family…and we all care about you." 
        Goten couldn't believe what he had just heard.  He'd never thought that Bra would say anything so deep like that.  She was just a 16-year-old girl…giving advice to an adult like him.  And she was right!  All he needed was what everyone wanted.  To have some loving. 
 He was even more surprised that Bra seemed to know everything about him.  Especially how he felt. 
        Bra knew it was hard to make Goten forget about his ex-girlfriend.  But then, she didn't dare make Goten feel bad.  She loved him too much.  She would do anything to make him happy.  She didn't mind if he didn't know her true feelings for him, as long he stayed next to her…close to her. 
        She slowly reached out and touched his arm.  She wrapped it around hers and rested her head on his shoulder.  She was blushing furiously, but there wasn't anything to do about it now. Goten was obviously surprised as well, but he didn't pull away or try to avoid it. 
        The situation reminded him of the past….Her sweet scent reminded him of that night when he and Bra were alone…when he brought her to her house…he'd felt the same way he did at this instant…he had hugged her, and she was wearing the same perfume she had worn that night… 
        And he remembered kissing her cheek. 
        "Everything is going to be okay," she whispered. "I promise you." 
        Goten could feel his own face begin to burn as she hugged him arm tightly.  But he found he had no desire to move.  He knew Bra was just trying to help him…and she did.  To his surprise, his hand automatically reached for hers. 
        As he touched her, Bra felt an electric shock race through her and she looked up at him. "Goten?" 
        "Sankyuu, B-chan," he whispered, smiling at her. 
        She smiled back at him and tentatively reached out and linked her fingers through his.  Holding on 
tightly, she rested her head on his shoulder.  She wanted to hold him like his forever.  Maybe longer. 
        A golden thought shone in her mind. 

        She does have hope. 

        Pan shook her head as she peeked at them.  She couldn't believe it at first, but then, anything's possible, she thought to herself. 

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"Automatic" by Utada Hikaru