"Hey sleepyhead. Time to get up now." Duo shook Jazz's shoulder gently.
The boy stirred and curled closer to his father. "Warm."
Duo chuckled. "So am I. Believe me, I'd like nothing better than to spend all day like this but we've got stuff to do today. Heero and I have those bigwigs to meet with and you're going to visit Linra's school, remember?"
A violet eye peeked out from under a mess of sandy hair and Jazz sighed. "Promise you won't tell her I did this? I feel dumb."
"Hey, now. We men stick together." Heero spoke up from Jazz's other side. "If she presses it, tell her I had a bad dream and you came in to see me."
"Jazz has a girlfriend, Jazz has a girlfriend..." Duo said in a taunting voice.
Whoomp. Jazz was straddling his father's stomach, fists balled. "Take that back."
"Nope. And you just earned yourself ITT."
"No, not ITT!" Jazz tried to scrambled away but Duo flipped him and held him down. "Yes, ITT. INCREDIBLE TICKLE TORTURE."
Duo ran his fingers over Jazz's stomach as the boy giggled helplessly. "Who da man? Come on, say it. Who da man?"
Jazz managed to gasp out. "Me."
"Wrong answer." Duo continued tickling him. "Who da man?"
"Okay, okay, you da man, Pops. Lemme go."
Duo glanced at Heero. "Should I listen to him? Think he's sincere?"
Heero pretended to think. "Hai. Let him up. But on probation only."
Duo released the child, who gave him a baleful glance. "She's not my girlfriend. I don't like girls."
"Hey, nothing wrong with being into guys." Duo offered. "Speaking from experience." He grinned at Heero over Jazz's head.
"YUCK. I ain't into guys either!" Jazz protested. "I'm a confirmed bachelor. Like Wufei."
"Wufei was married when he was 14." Duo informed the boy.
"He was too. It was an arranged marriage. She died not longer after, so he's a widower, not a bachelor." Heero explained.
"Wow, I didn't know that." Jazz was quiet for a moment. "Do you think misses her?"
"I think so, sometimes." Duo ruffled Jazz's hair. "But don't mention it to him. He doesn't like talking about it."
"I won't. There's a difference, you know. There's giving someone a hard time... and just being mean. I don't want to be mean."
"You couldn't be mean if your life depended on it." Heero patted Jazz on the shoulder. "You're too much like your father. You suffer from terminal kindness. I tried to cure him of it when we were kids, but nothing worked."
They could hear voices from the rest of the house, and smell breakfast. Jazz's stomach growled and all three laughed. "Come on, last one to the table is a rotten... whatever their version of an egg is in this place." Duo urged.
Jazz had been set to protest when offered a pair of Linra's shoes, but when promised boys and girls wore the same ones he accepted them. They were cool, too. They looked like leather but stretched out to fit his feet perfectly. And it was better than going around in his socks, he had to admit.
"Mother, can we take the board to school and not the transporter?" Linra pleaded.
"Sure, but you remember Jazz has never been on one. No fancy tricks." Sheld warned, not looking from trying to convince Rosemary a spoonful of something would taste better in her mouth, not her ear.
Duo took the spoon away and swallowed the gloop himself. "Hummm, that's good!"
Rosemary stared at him in shocked outrage and opened her own mouth wide. Sheld retrieved the spoon and stuffed the baby food into her daughter's face. "Thanks. You're good at that. Linra would eat anything, but this one is fussy."
"Jazz only wanted what he saw us eating. I can't count all the nights Hilde and I had strained carrots for dinner. But darned if I didn't develop a taste for mashed prunes." Duo sighed. "That stuff's pretty good too. What is it?"
"Dekorn heart and liver paste."
Duo blinked. "Interesting. Well, enjoy, Rosemary." He was an interesting shade of green, Heero noted.
"Dekorn is a vegetable, Duo. It has different parts and it's only called heart and liver."
"I see. Thank you for explaining that. I was about to take the yacht back to Earth and get some burgers and fries for this poor child."
"Come on, Jazz. We'll be late." Linra urged. "Bye, Mother."
"Bye, sweets. You take good care of Jazz, you hear? His fathers want him back in one piece!"
Jazz pecked Duo and Heero on the cheek. "See ya later. Can't believe I actually want to go to school." The boy grinned, and followed Linra out the door.
She led him to the board and kicked the front. It began floating about six inches off the ground. "I had to beg and beg them to buy me it for my last birthday. They were sure I was going to kill myself on it."
Jazz nodded. "I know how that goes."
"You're too young."
"You're not responsible enough."
"I heard just the other day..."
"That a kid was killed doing that."
"When you're older." They both finished together, grinning.
"Don't forget 'Because I said so'"
"And 'When I was your age'" Jazz put in. He deepened his voice and Duo would have fainted dead away at the perfect imitation of himself. "When I was your age, I was up at 4 AM every single day saving the world and then I had to go to school on top of it. Naked, in a snow storm. Only got a handful of rusty nails for lunch, IF I was lucky!"
Linra had dissolved in giggles. "That's perfect, Jazz! Come on." She stepped on the board. "Stand behind me and hold on to my waist." She instructed. "I'll go slow... until they can't see us anymore, that is."
Jazz was slightly embarrassed but clung to Linra's middle anyway. She moved her foot in the air next to the board and it shot away into the morning.
"This is slow?" Jazz called out as they raced down the street passed the other houses.
"For me." She called back. "You want faster?"
"Hold on." Jazz felt his breath zapped away as the board picked up speed. They passed a few floating vehicles along the way. Most people on Dera used the transporters but they had some... cars, Jazz didn't have a better word for them. There were people who would not use a transporter if their life depended on it.
It was the wildest ride of Jazz's life and he loved every minute of it. Linra took the turns with barely a change in speed. The houses were only vague blurs before his teary vision but he sensed them changing, becoming less rural. Finally they stopped in front of one large building. "This is it." Linra hopped off. "What'd ya think?"
"I HAVE to make Pops buy me one of these." Jazz shook his head. "That was great!"
Linra picked up the board and placed in with a pile of other ones. Jazz noticed no one locked them up or did anything else to make sure they would stay there. She led him into the building.
Instantly they were surrounded by other children. "Who's this?"
"Heero came back last night. And this... " she announced proudly. "Is Duo and Hilde's son. His name is Jason but he likes being called Jazz. His mother's dead and Heero's his pledge-father now."
Instantly Jazz felt himself bombarded by questions. Did his father really never cut his hair? Did he really shoot Heero? Was he sad about his mother being gone? What was it like to have Heero as a pledge-father?
"Now, leave him be." A woman with fiery red hair instructed. "That's no way to treat a visitor. Welcome, Jazz. It's very nice to meet you." She embraced him and Jazz politely hugged her back. "Linra, why don't you give Jazz a tour of the school? And the rest of you, back to work."
"Come on, Jazz. I'll show you my work station." Linra pointed. "You'll like this. I'm doing a virtual safari now. We can use animals from your mind and it's going to be so cool... you can show me a cat."