"Because it's an important part of any story. It's fine for us to do nothing but go at it when we play, but for the book, they've gotta have some conflict."
"True. Okay, what do we want? Life threatening illness, coma?"
"Wuchang, horribly jealous, arranges for the prince to be sold to a pack of wandering leprechauns."
"All right, all right, but I still think if you'd only consider the idea... mphff."
"That's the only idea I'm considering at the moment, but you wanted to discuss the book. So discuss it so we can get on to... other things."
"Okay, the King says he comes from an unbroken line. Well, unless something changes it's about to be broken. Because I really can't see Devin sending him out at 2AM for spare ribs, you know?"
"Okay, he has a betrothed. A woman he's been engaged to for a long time."
"Ahem. Possibly. Anyway, he talks about this with Devin. Devin knows that an heir is important, so he says he can accept the marriage. Lucian isn't quite as sure, but he promises Devin it will only be in name. He'll touch her enough to get her with child and then never again. He also promises Devin that he'll never take her in their bed."
"The woman arrives. She's very pretty."
"Does she have to be?"
"But very spoiled and cold. She's heard the stories about the king but dismisses them as jealous gossip."
"So she's an idiot as well."
"Devin does not attend the marriage ceremony. However, he imagines himself a part of it. And Lucian pretends it's Devin he's making his vows to."
"You're making me cry over here, you know."
"So after the wedding feast, the new queen wanders into the king's bedchamber to await him. Devin is there."
"REOWW. HISS HISS!"
"Exactly. Devin wastes no time telling her she has her own room down the hall and that she is not welcome in this one. She orders him out and instead he bodily throws HER out."
"Ohhhh, sounds fun. Out the window?"
"No, baka, out into the hallway. She runs to find her husband and tells him what has happened. He coldly informs her that Devin is his true spouse, and that her only role is to provide him with an heir to his throne. She is to wait for him in her chamber and he'll be along shortly to get started on that. And that she is NEVER to enter his chamber or insult Devin in any manner."
"Or he'll let Wuchang... sorry. Go on."
"She tries everything to please him when he arrives but he's completely professional. He does what he came to do, gets up, and starts to leave. She begs him to stay with her and 'love' her again but he swears touching her left him feeling sick to his stomach. He's going to sleep next to the man he loves. He walks out."
"Well, that can't make her happy."
"She bides her time and soon discovers that Devin is in fact Prince Devin, who everyone had assumed was executed after he was captured by Lucian's men. She writes a letter to his uncle, the exiled king, telling him that his nephew is still alive, and being used as a play thing by her 'evil husband'."
"And what's the matter with being a play thing, I'd like to know?"
"Plenty, as far as the uncle is concerned. The Queen has an active imagination. She describes all manner of horrors she's witnessed Prince Devin suffer. How she's been forced to watch these odious acts. He's horrified to think of his beloved nephew being tortured and being forced to take it up the rear by a depraved king."
"A really cute depraved king."
"Thank you. The uncle arranges for Devin to be rescued."
"Meddling old fart."
"His men come upon Devin out hunting in the woods and tell him they're there to save him. He assures them he has no desire to be saved, but thank you very much. The men conclude that the evil Lucian has brainwashed him and abduct him."
"Lucian is frantic when Devin doesn't return. The wife... what should we name her?"
"That will work for now. Queen Hussy tells him that Devin has probably run away from him. Lucian snaps that Devin would not break his vow. That's the only thing he's sure about, that Devin loves him too much to ever break his word and flee."
"That's for sure. He's probably terrified."
"The king finds a letter the exiled uncle wrote to Queen Hussy thanking her for her information. He realizes what has happened. His first act is to order the queen locked in the dungeon."
"Fine, have it your own way. This time. Yes, Queen Hussy and Wuchang are locked together in the dungeon. He's there because he found out he wasn't going to be in the book and attacked the king."
"I like. Go on."
"Lucian leaves to track down his missing lover."
"Meanwhile, in his keep, the uncle is trying in vain to 'cure' his nephew. He tries threatening him, bribing him, even bringing in nubile young women to tempt him with."
"Umm... nubile young women..."
"I BEG your pardon?"
"Hey, I roll my dice with both hands, you know that. But I don't play anymore. You can stop glaring at me now. You know I only have eyes for my Wolf."
"You'd better. Devin feels the same way. He coldly rejects all of them."
"The keep is attacked several days later and Lucian storms in, ready to break some necks. Devin is thrilled to see him but asks his uncle's life be spared because he meant well. Lucian agrees. He then tells Devin that he's releasing him from the vows he made. That if he wants to stay with his uncle, he can. He tells Devin he loves him but he wants Devin to be with him because he wants to be, not because he feels like he has to be."
"That must be the hardest thing he's ever done."
"Devin tells Lucian that he wants to be with him and asks Lucian to take him home. The uncle sputters in protest but Devin tells him he's found where he's met to be. He and Lucian leave together."
"But that wife is still in the dungeon. She has to be punished for lying to Devin's uncle like that."
"She will be. Do you remember their first night together? What Lucian threatened Devin with?"
"Wolf, you are evil! I love it! And Wuchang?"
"Ran away with a chamber maid. He still sends them a Christmas card each year."
"But doesn't Lucian still need an heir?"
"He has a cousin with a young son. He decides to name that boy his heir."
"And why didn't he do that to begin with and save them all the trouble??"
"Because Devin urged him to go through with the marriage and have his own heir."
"Devin and I need to have a serious talk."
"You've done enough talking this morning. Your king orders you to find a more productive use for your mouth."
"Yes, my liege."
Flashball was a rough game, similar to basketball on L2 and Earth, but there were no fouls; anything went. And the children seemed to understand that the surest way to lose their favorite pastime was to abuse that rule. No one ever suffered anything more serious than a few scrapes and an occasional loose tooth.
Jazz adored the game. He was not a boy who enjoyed inflicting pain on other children, but when he played, he played to win, and he had always felt stifled by the rules back home.
Plus, after yesterday, it felt wonderful to have something completely physical to focus on. His father had asked him five times at breakfast if he really and truly felt up to going to school that day. He hated that more than the nightmares, that worried, anxious look in Pops' eyes.
Jazz sat down on a bench and took a sip of water, closing his eyes against the midday sun.
Pops could be odd sometimes. In some ways, he seemed to want Jazz to be exactly like him. He was always bragging to people how alike they were, and always wanting to braid Jazz's hair, which the boy had not allowed since he was old enough to fight back. Then in other ways, he seemed terrified that Jazz would become too much like him. So he was always trying to push him toward something and protect him from it at the same time.
He could never talk to his father about this. Duo would just give him that "you're too young to understand" speech. But he had talked to Ojisan about it when Pops wasn't around, swearing him to secrecy. Ojisan had told Jazz that his father loved him exactly the way he was, but that his father had spent a good portion of his life watching everyone he loved die. Father Maxwell and Sister Helen, Solo, Jazz's mother Hilde. He was a brave man, Heero had explained. He had stared death in the face more than once and survived, but love made you vulnerable. Jazz was his greatest love and his greatest weakness and he lived in constant fear of losing him.
Jazz had thought about that for a while, then asked if it wouldn't be easier just not to ever love anyone. Ojisan had replied he used to think so, but that kind of attitude made for a pretty miserable life. "I think the fact that we know how precious something is, that we could lose it at any minute, makes us appreciate it all the more." he had said at last.
The boy looked up from his musings to see his teacher standing over him. "Jazz, there's someone here who wants to meet with you. He's in the office. You can go on in now if you'd like."
Puzzled, the boy nodded and slid off the bench. He wondered if he were in trouble of some sort, but dismissed the idea quickly. He'd just been told this morning how well he was doing.
He blinked as his eyes adjusted from sunlight to artificial light and entered the office.
The man didn't appear to be anything special. Just a man, with thinning brown hair, standing near the window. He turned around as Jazz entered and for a moment, there was no expression on his face.
"You would be Jason." the man said at last.
"Jazz Maxwell." The boy extended his hand, but the man did not take it. "Sit down, Jason." he motioned toward a chair. "I disapprove of nicknames. If something was good enough for your parents to name you, it is good enough for them and others to call you by."
The child resisted an almost overwhelming urge to stick out his tongue, fighting what Wufei had referred to once as his "inner Duo". Instead he sat down on a leather chair, his legs not reaching the floor beneath.
"I am Tren Vire."
"The Tren of Seta?" Jazz asked, puzzled. Why would the Tren of another world want to meet with him?
The man nodded. "I have made it a point to meet with your father and the others from your corner of the galaxy. It occurred to me that we had not yet been introduced. I have known Heero since he first arrived here."
Well, good for you. Jazz thought. He could hear the shouts of his friends outside and the thump of the flashball. Suddenly it seemed that there was no air in the office, even though the window was open.
"I received word a few hours ago that your father has decided to stay on this world. Will you be staying with him?" Vire asked.
"Well, duh! I mean, sorry to be rude, but he's my Pops. Of course I'll stay where he is." Jazz shrugged.
"Do children on your world routinely live with their parents?"
Okay, this guy was really starting to weird him out. "Well, yeah."
"You were not born on Earth. You were born on one of those colonies, correct?"
"L2." Jazz nodded. He remembered something his father had said jokingly once. "Just humor the nice lunatic." He fought an urge to giggle.
"I was not born on Dera, either." Vire said suddenly. "Seta and Dera have been separate worlds since Seta was populated. My father was Tren of Seta. He met and pledged to my mother, who is Tren of Dera."
"So where did you live?"
"On Seta. My parents pledged for political reasons, to unite the worlds. Then each went their separate ways, hardly seeing the others. When I was born, a feat I'm still not sure I understand, I went to live on Seta with my father. We have something in common, you and I. Both raised motherless."
Jazz nodded sympathetically. Vire continued. "Upon my father's passing, I became Tren of Seta. It is a beautiful world, with many parts still uncharted. I wish to preserve that beauty. My mother has no objections to allowing your kind to live on this world, but I am unsure I want you on my own. I had hoped by meeting you to get a clear idea of what I can expect."
He laced his fingers together. "I will meet with you again in three days time and we can discuss your world in more detail. For now, you are dismissed."
Jazz nodded carefully and returned to the outside, shaking his head. That had to be the weirdest conversation he had ever had in his life. With one of the weirdest men. One thing he knew for certain was that he had no desire to 'discuss his world in more detail' with that fruitcake. He'd tell Pops and Ojisan about it when he got home. Maybe they could figure out what Tren Vire wanted. Or get him some new medicine or something.
"Hey, Jazz." a boy yelled. "Heads up." The flashball was tossed into his hands and he automatically begin to run. He could hear leather shoes hitting the ground behind him, but he wasn't sure if he was running away from his teammates or the man watching him from the office window.